A year-long study found that cognitive ability improved after a year of brisk walking or other aerobic activity – even in those with memory impairments.
We all hope to be as fit as possible and compos mentis well into our later years. Whilst the traditional view holds the brain and body are susceptible to deterioration as we get older, frontier research has discovered that light to moderate exercise helps individuals to stay spritely physically, mentally and emotionally.
As we grow older, cognitive health plays a significant role in our quality of life; and if we start noticing that we’re not as sharp as we once were, it can be daunting. That alone can invite stress and worry which further deteriorates the hippocampus – the part of your brain that has agency over memory.
Can You Manipulate Your Brain?
Most of us desire an element of control over our health and lives, so it’s natural that we’d want to improve our cognitive ability, too. As it turns out we can!
According to a new study on mild cognitive impairment and exercise, regular walking helps improve memory and brain function. The healthier you are in your body, the healthier your brain is. This means that you are more likely to have a positive outlook on life and maintain healthy synapses.
Walking for Brain Health: A Study
The year-long study, which was published by the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, investigated the health of 70 sedentary people over the age of 55. Each of the participants had mild cognitive impairment.
*It’s worth noting that the condition of the participants is not the same as Dementia but does impair your memory, and those who have it are at greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease.*
The participants were divided into two groups: a control group and an active group. The control group simply performed light stretches, whereas the active group walked on treadmills and outdoors.
The active group were asked to walk briskly so that they were adequately exerting themselves and increasing their heart rates.
As we discussed in a previous article, oxygen has a significant role to play in cognition. The more H2O you get to your brain, the better it functions. Because brisk walking causes you to breathe deeply, there is more oxygen for your blood to transport to all areas of your body.
Brisk walking also makes your heath pump faster. The results showed that participants who walked faster frequently were able to raise their cognitive scores and boost blood flow to their brains.
The active group performed better than the control group on executive function tests, which includes things like planning and decision-making.
The control group also gained benefits of being more active, but researchers believe that the specific benefits of walking would have a greater impact on cognitive ability in the long run.
Why Does Walking Improve Brain Function in Older Adults?
Many people start slowing down as they get older, and lead more sedentary lifestyles. As this happens, things start slowing down internally, too.
The heart doesn’t pump as vigorously, which means that arteries become stiffer and do not deliver oxygen to the brain and other parts of the body as effectively. Walking helps limber up the arteries again, which promotes better blood flow and oxygen to the brain.
Other Benefits of Brisk Walking
Brisk walking is a powerful but accessible form of exercise that promotes a healthy mind and body. Unsurprisingly, this study also found that the walking group had greater cardiovascular endurance after participating in a walking challenge for one year.
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