Walking! It’s good for the brain, good for the heart and calms the spirit! And it doesn’t require a gym membership.
There are some easy health tips that I hear myself suggest to patients every day and walking is one of them. We all know that at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise 3–4 times a week keeps our heart healthy, our blood pressure low and helps us stay fit. But I also like the meditative quality of walking. Many anxious thoughts drift away as I check out the flowers starting to bloom or see my neighbor on the sidewalk and by the time I am home again, I feel grounded, calm and better prepared to take on the next task.
Today I was sent an article from the New York Times about research that shows that walking can also improve memory function by expanding the hippocampus—a major component of our brain belonging to the limbic system that plays a major role in long term memory and spatial navigation. With this simple and enjoyable task of walking 3 times a week for 40 minutes, the research subject’s hippocampus increased in volume by 2% while those who did less aerobic exercise like yoga or resistance training with bands had a decrease in volume by 1.4%. 2 % may not sound like much but it is significant for older adults who normally have a decline as they age. That is not to disparage yoga, because strength and flexibility is equally important for the smooth flow of energy and blood. We can all get out for a walk no matter how old we are, and this is further evidence of the importance for keeping our bodies moving to improve the quality of life for our minds and spirits!