Researching is one of my favorite things. If I don’t know something then I will keep looking till I find the right answer. I know how great walking is for weight loss, for toning, as well as for your health and well-being. Below I explore and try to answer the question “how does walking benefit the brain”.
Walking is of benefit to the brain and also helps with memory. Walking benefits include your brains ability to reduce insulin resistance, stimulate the brain by releasing endorphins and helping the growth of new blood vessels in the brain. Walking also improves low mood, it helps reduce stress and anxiety walking also is of benefit if you are having problems sleeping.
Many researchers have studies the effects of exercise on the brain. They have come to the conclusion that those who exercise (or walk as I’m talking about here) have greater function in the prefrontal cortex and medial temporal cortex of the brain. Indeed they also found that if you exercise for over six months or even a year you are probably likely to see an increase in your brain activity too.
Walking in the forest or on the beach will help boost your brain by releasing endorphins. This is certainly a lovely spot to walk in autumn.
How Walking Helps Improve Your Brain
Walking is exercise and if you walk your brain will benefit from the release of BDNF which will improve your brain but also the release of endorphins will give your mood a great boost. There has been research done that suggests walking just 20 minutes will do this. It will also help you prolong your life as well as reducing your risk of disease. Just think that with just 20 minutes of walking per day will help boost your brain. I think that is so cool! After all walking is just the easiest thing you can do with all the fantastic benefits.
Can Walking Stimulate the Brain?
Yes walking can also stimulate the brain. This was evident in a study which was published in a journal called Experimental Biology that found in older women, by walking briskly several times a week for at least 30 minutes their blood flow to the brain improved by up to 15%. Apparently this increase was so impressive they deemed that walking is medicine. They also suggested that when you increase your blood flow by walking, it also increases the oxygen supply, the glucose and other nutrients to your brain. It is this that also makes for happy neurons in your brain.
Can Walking Improve Your Memory
Yes brisk walking can improve your memory. This was found out during a study conducted by the University of British Columbia. The researchers studied those who undertook aerobic exercise (remember brisk walking is an aerobic exercise) boosted the size of the hippocampus. The hippocampus is the area of the brain associated with verbal memory and learning.
So for me this is more evidence that brisk walking is the way to go. There are so many benefits to brisk walking now from helping you lose weight, making your heart stronger, reducing your risk of diabetes, lowering and keeping low your blood pressure, helping with low mood and depression and now improving your memory! This really is a significant piece of research as the rates of dementia are increasing so much these days that at least my walking journey will be of benefit to me.
Other ways walking helps your brain
I could ramble on for hours and spout my wisdom to you about the benefits I have gained from walking. However, this may well be interesting but I want to also bolster my experience with a wealth of research that makes a stronger case for you taking up walking. Walking is a potent medicine for your brain. It enhances your mood, it sharpens your memory, it also safeguards your brain in more ways that we will ever know. Below I’ve listed some of these so you know exactly how walking helps your brain.
Walking enhances your mood. A study has found that just 12 minutes of walking increases mood, self-confidence and attentiveness. This was tested on hundreds of college students. I can attest to this myself. If I’m feeling a little down or had a bad day at work, walking makes me feel so much better. The fact that walking outdoors is recommended for those undertaking Cognitive Behavioral Therapy who suffer from low mood, anxiety and depression is testament to how effective walking is for enhancing your mood
Walking increases the connections between your brain cells. I have talked above about the connections between neurons in your brain. Walking helps with these connections and even more so as we get older. Tests were carried out in older adults who walked and researchers found they had improved brain health from walking each day.
Walking improves your memory. Another study in Germany found that those who walked had improved memory from completing a series of memory tasks than those who did not go for a walk. How fantastic that by going out for a walk means that your working memory could improve? This has to be a great thing for helping to keep Alzheimer disease at bay?
Walking helps you connect with nature. I’m not talking Earth Mother stuff here I am saying that walking outdoors in the fresh air, in the forest, at the beach, where there is beautiful scenery will boost your mood too. It will relax you and help you to deal with an issues you are experiencing. We all have a connection to the earth and you will feel it if you head out for some fresh air. I find that all the time, especially when I walk along the beach. The sound of the water is just so relaxing and refreshing.
Walking helps to give your brain the space to think. There are some rhythms and sounds that relax me. As I mentioned above the sound of the waves. Another is the rhythmic sound of my walking. It is so relaxing. Did you know that some research suggests your walking rhythm is conducive to allowing your brain the space and time to think. This is a fantastic thing to happen. Next time you are out walking concentrate on your walking steps and see what happens.
Indeed a small study found that the act of walking creates a pulse that sends a pressure wave through your arteries. When this happens it coincides with the heart sending its own pressure wave through the body. This has the result of increasing blood flow to your brain. What is the significance of this? Well the power of blood flow means your brain cells are being fed by wonderful nutrients such as glucose and oxygen. This is linked to improved protection for the brain especially as we get older and it is also a protection against memory decline.
My tips to help you use walking to benefit your brain
My first tip is to just start walking! I would also recommend you start brisk walking. Most of the studies have been conducted on walking so just start. The studies also suggest that the amount of walking you do is at least 1 hour per day for twice a week. However I would suggest you try to walk 1 hour per day for more than that if you are getting so many benefits. Why would you not?
If you haven’t been doing brisk walking start off slow and increase it until you reach the hour level. Remember though if you don’t have an hour, fit it in to your day whatever way you can from 10 minutes etc.If you need motivation for brisk walking you can ask a friend to join you. You could also join a walking club if there is one near by. You could also buy yourself a Fitbit to keep yourself motivated.
Whatever keeps you walking then go for it. If you can commit to walking the 120 minutes minimum that is recommended for these wonderful benefits then walking will indeed be the best medicine!
My second tip is to add more walking in to your daily activities. If it were not for me walking to the train station and doing a brisk walk at lunch time I wouldn’t be feeling the benefits of walking for my health, well-being and brain! I often use intervals to keep my walking fresh and to take it up a notch too. It’s a little more strenuous but it really is worth it and makes you feel so good at the end. I also listen to music while walking as it helps me quicken the pace during the chorus.
Use it or you will lose it. This saying is so true with your brain. Your brain is a muscle and as such you need to keep exercising it. You need to keep your mind active and there is no better way than to go out walking. Get those neurons creating more new pathways by walking and changing your walking route frequently.
No more excuses. I came up with a lot of excuses to not exercise by popping on a dvd. The only real excuse I needed was that I was bored with it. That was the one reason I couldn’t stick with it. Walking is different for me and I am sure it would be different for you. No more excuses not to walk. It is so beneficial. Once you get in the way of fitting walking in to your every day routine you will see the benefits in no time at all.
I wanted to share with you one of the most wonderful things about walking. It is very meditative, it is calming and it is relaxing. Writing this post I felt a little exhausted. I decided to go out for a brisk walk. After 40 minutes I came back refreshed and ready to start back. Coming through the door after that walk my first reaction was “oh that was lovely”.
So if you are looking for a way to boost your brain all you have to do is go walking. A moderate amount of walking each day will indeed benefit your brain. It will strengthen your cells and it could also improve your memory. How fantastic is that?
Research by University of Pittsburgh studied 60 healthy older volunteers. They were asked to undetake moderately intense aerobic exercise which consisted of walking around a track for 40 minutes at a time, 3 days a week. They were compared with a group who were asked to do stretching, yoga, and resistance training with bands. One year later, the two groups were compared on their aerobic capacity, the size of their hippocampus (the brain’s short-term memory center), and spatial memory (the ability to remember patterns). Remarkably, the volume of the hippocampus increased only in the group who were doing the walking.
This is fantastic news as the hippocampus is not known for increasing at any point in later life in fact it often gets smaller! The findings on memory from this study were a less straightforward. The walking group and the stretching group improved their spatial memory performance over the one-year.
While I have used studies and science in this article to show you how walking can improve your brain, the truth is that this doesn’t really matter unless you are going to start walking. It is so difficult to start something if you trying to prevent something from happening. However if you do start walking you will feel physical and mental benefits immediately. Behind the scenes the walking will be benefiting your brain without you even realising it.
Are you going to take the challenge to keep your brain and memory in tip-top shape? It’s never too early to start getting your brain in tip top shape and the good news is that all you have to do is start walking.
Happy walking folks.