Walk Your Way to a Bigger Brain

A forty-minute walk three times a week can keep your brain from atrophying—and even improve your memory.

By Reader's Digest Editors

We know exercise is good for our bodies, but new research suggests it is also good for our brains. A forty-minute walk three times a week can keep your brain from atrophying—and even improve your memory, says a new study in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The hippocampus, the part of our brain responsible for storing memories, usually starts to atrophy when we are between 55 and 60 years old. But when study subjects (of an average age of 60) began walking three times a week for up to 40 minutes, their hippocampuses actually expanded by an average of 2 percent.

In contrast, the hippocampuses of subjects who did other kinds of less aerobic exercise, such as yoga or weight lifting, shrank by 1.4 percent. Both groups improved on a test of spatial memory, but the walkers improved more.

Researchers were thrilled that it was possible to reverse the effects of aging on the hippocampus just with exercise. “And not that much exercise,” psychologist Kirk Erickson of the University of Pittsburgh told The New York Times. “We don’t want to intimidate people and make them think they have to be bodybuilders or marathon runners.” So next time you want to give your body and brain a boost, remember it doesn’t take a hard core workout. A walk will do just fine.

Source:  The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, The New York Times

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