Walking and Brain Health
Posted by Kimber Harding
June 3, 2015
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We know that walking is a great form of physical activity that can have positive effects on our heart and body, but it is the benefits for our brain that can increase our interest in walking.
The pathways of our brain are vital for memory and creative thinking. As we age, those pathways naturally disintegrate, which directly affects brain function. Degenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and Huntington’s disease are common in older adults and cause series of nerve damage that eventually lead to cell death1. Millions are affected worldwide but there is steady progress in delaying the onset of these disorders.
Walking Protects Your Mental Wealth
Gabriel Axel, a Neuroscientist, provided insight that our brain has a default mode that relates to self-referencing and episodic memory2. By resting this default mode, we allow the mind to reframe itself. When the default mode is activated again, the reframed mind is now susceptible to increased creativity.
Psychologist Susan Krauss Whitbourne echoed Axel’s findings by adding that these creative abilities can be accessed through walking2.
Walking has also been found to add years to our life. In a study primarily authored by Arthur Kramer, director of the Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, participants aged 55-80 were assigned to two different groups, a walking group and a stretching/yoga group. After a year the walking group showed brain growth that is the equivalent of preventing age-related loss by one to two years3. (full article:
Adolescences have also shown benefits from walking through increased comprehension, standardized test scores, and creative thinking2,4.
Step to a Brighter Future
Research has shown that as little as 20 minutes of walking helps to not only stimulate the brain, but also prevent the shrinking and disintegrating as we age4.
The physiological benefits of walking are the increased blood flow to brain cells and the release of chemicals that affect brain cells and vessels in growth and survival5. Cognitive benefits of the brain are related to various stimuli from the surrounding environment. Axel and Whitbourne agree that distractions such as music while walking will not allow the default mode of the brain to be at rest. They encourage connection to the environmental stimuli to regulate the reframing of our minds. Take advantage of opportunities to walk without distractions and allow your mind to reframe. The physical and cognitive benefits of increased walking can be available as the frequency and intensity of your walking increases.
Walking For Your Brain
Degenerative Disorders. (n.d.). Retrieved March 30, 2015, from Brain Facts:
Kohli, S. (2014, September 08). How Walking Can Make Your Brain Healthier And More Creative. Retrieved March 30, 2015, from The Huffington Post:
Simon, N. (2011, February 15). Keep Your Memory Strong by Walking. Retrieved March 30, 2015, from AARP
Brodwin, E. (2014, August 11). The Scientific Reason You Should Take a Brief Walk Every Day. Retrieved March 30, 2015, from Mic
Godman, H. (2014, April 9). Harvard Health Blog. Retrieved from Harvard Health Publications
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