No walking dead here! Walking benefits the brain and prevents cognitive decline

We know that walking makes us feel good, especially after a stressful day. That’s why some people choose to “walk away” from problems, or from negative people. Scientists have discovered another thing going for this simple exercise: It helps boost mental health.

Researchers observed 12 healthy young adults and used ultrasound to measure internal carotid artery blood velocity waves and arterial diameters to compute cerebral blood flow (CBF). They were tested while standing up and walking at the rate of one meter per second. The researchers found that foot impact while walking is lighter compared with running. But walking still creates bigger pressure waves in the body that substantially increase blood flow to the brain. Walking led to less dramatic effects on CBF compared to running, but they were greater than those seen during cycling, which had zero foot impact.

Researchers from the New Mexico Highlands University (NMHU) found that the foot’s impact while walking sends pressure waves through the arteries that substantially raise blood supply to the brain.

Before the research findings were released, blood supply to the brain was thought to be controlled by the body and unaffected by blood pressure changes from exercise or physical exertion. The NMHU research team itself and others used to believe that the foot’s impact while running created substantial impact-related, backward-flowing waves through the arteries that work in combination with the heart rate and stride rate to control CBF.

But the new study proved that brain blood flow relies on “cyclic aortic pressures” that work in coordination with retrograde pressure pulses from foot impact. The researchers added that walking may maximize the flow of blood in the brain, improve its functions, and create a sense of well-being.

The study’s first author, Ernest Greene, was surprised that he and his team finally succeeded in measuring the impact of walking on cerebral blood flow. He confirmed that movement maximizes the flow of blood to the brain. (Related: Reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s by walking FAST and OFTEN.)

Too busy to take a walk? Here are some tips from avid walkers:

  • Enlist your pet dog’s help – Nothing can be more energizing and rewarding than walking with your pet. Even a walk around the block can get those sweat glands working and detoxify your body. Your dog will also love you more for it.
  • Do it the first thing — Get some time in for yourself early, before the demands of the day begin. Try knocking at your neighbor’s door and inviting her to join you. It will get those physical and mental muscles ready for a busy day at home or in the office.
  • Plan your exercise — Make your to-do list for the day. Ask yourself if you can visit your friend shortly after you’ve done your regular walk. You may want to invite your friend for a walk and catch up on each other while negotiating the curb around your neighborhood, or admiring the flowers that bloom on the way. If the rainy weather keeps you from walking outdoors, spending some time on the treadmill can help.
  • Walk after work — The office has finally closed, and you’re free to walk around. All you have to do is change from formal office attire to casual jogging pants or walking shorts. Try keeping your walking shoes near the door, so you can easily shift from those formal office shoes to exercise-friendly sneakers or rubber shoes. You may also want to bring a jug of water to replace the liquid the body losses from perspiration, and a towel to wipe those beads of sweat away.

You might be surprised at how good you feel and how clearly you can think. After all, some of the best things in life are free.

Walking is one of the easiest (not to mention, cheapest!) ways to be healthy. Visit today to learn more natural ways you can achieve your best health.

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