Aim for daily steps if you’re walking to improve brain health

We often hear how good walking is for your body. It boosts your heart and lung health, increases leg strength and lowers blood pressure. But, although certainly less frequently discussed, walking is also great for your brain. In fact, a recent study looking at walking to improve brain health found that people who walked more than 4,000 steps per day had better memory-related brain cells as well as better cognitive function than those who walked. Less than 4,000 steps per day.

In other words, walking could be your ticket to protecting your brain from age-related cognitive decline.

To learn more about the brain benefits of walking, we spoke with Dave Robin, MD, PhD, a neuroscientist and board-certified psychiatrist at Apollo Neuroscience. It’s mind blowing how good it is for you to put one foot in front of the other from head to toe.

Cognitive benefits of walking

Walking may seem like a very simple form of exercise that is particularly beneficial to your health, but the truth is that more intense types of exercise like HIIT workouts and Pilates certainly have benefits, but regular walking still has many benefits. .

“Walking may seem simple to those of us who are able-bodied, but it is a complex process involving the interaction of neuromuscular, sensory and cognitive functions,” says Dr. Robin. “Many studies have also shown that participation in walking exercise can help prevent cognitive decline and reduce the risk of dementia.” In part, that’s because walking increases blood flow to the brain, which releases endorphins, neurotransmitters that boost our mental health and our mood, according to Dr. Rabin.

At this point, a rather rich body of scientific evidence shows that walking changes our brains and bodies in positive ways. “There are more obvious aspects—that we become more aerobically fit when we incorporate more exercise into our daily routine—but the brain improvements from walking are striking,” shares Dr. Robin “A recent study completed in June 2021 by NeuroImage shows that exercise can remodel our brain’s white matter, improving our ability to think and remember as we age. We can see walking as an investment in our future health.”

And, the brain benefits of walking aren’t reserved for older adults. Studies show that even young adults are able to reap significant brain-boosting benefits from low-intensity exercise like walking.

How walking improves brain health

So, we know walking is good for the brain, but how Does walking improve brain health? Dr. Robin says it mostly comes down to the fact that walking increases cerebral blood flow, which is good for the brain. Furthermore, increased blood flow to the brain stimulates the release of endorphins, which boost our mood and sense of well-being.

“Studies show that after just six months of regular walking, participants improve their cardiovascular fitness and memory,” says Dr. Rabin. “I really like the idea of ​​James Clear Atomic practice About ‘walking slowly, but not backwards.’ Get out a little bit every day, show up for yourself, and the benefits will follow.”

How walking can improve memory and concentration

Dr. Robin says there are several ways that exercise, like waking up, improves our memory and concentration. For starters: “It stimulates physiological changes, such as reduced insulin resistance and inflammation, while inducing the production of chemicals that affect the growth of new blood vessels in the brain,” he explains. “It promotes abundance, survival and the overall health of our brain cells.”

How much walking should you do to benefit your brain?

Recent research has hit on 4,000 daily steps as the magic number when it comes to walking for improving brain health. Dr. Repin suggests that timed walking is sometimes a good way to make sure you’re getting enough movement each day.

“Trying to walk at least 30 minutes a day is recommended, but remember that 10 minutes is better than nothing,” he says. “The more you walk, the more you’ll feel and see improvement and it will start to feel easier.” Building a habit around walking will help make it part of your daily routine, he says.

According to Nobel Laureate Eric Kandel, “Habit is mastery, and the more we do it, the better we get at it. Whether you live in a more urban or rural environment, there are plenty of ways to walk more,” notes Dr. Robin. You can walk the same telephone pole and make a ritual out of it, listen to a podcast for some recharge while walking, take a walk with a baby carriage, or use the walk as a time to call and check in with someone you love.” One Well+Good editor turned her daily coffee run into a morning walk and says it’s helped her feel more clear about her work. Whatever gets you motivated and moving.

After a walk, show your body some TLC with this cool-down stretch that only takes five minutes:

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