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I am one who loves to walk and I try to walk a couple miles every day. What I have recently found most interesting is that there is a mountain of scientific evidence that shows walking, especially outdoors, is powerful medicine for the brain!  So, I wanted to share some of the ways walking in beneficial:

  • Walking may help you grow new brain cells.  Moderately paced walks stimulate the release of a protein called brain-delivered neurotrophic factor, or BDNF, that is key to the survival of existing brain neurons and the generation of new ones. 
  • Walking may boost your creativity.  Walking increases the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the brain, which can open the gates to enhanced creativity.  The brain uses about three times as much oxygen for healthy neuron function as muscles do.  Creativity is a cognitive skill that is part of problem-solving and the simple act of getting up from a desk and taking a short walk can help trigger ideas.
  • Walking may enhance your mood.  When you walk, increased blood flow to the brain initiates a cocktail of feel-good neurotransmitters – serotonin, dopamine, and endorphin that are released and elevates the mood. 
  • Walking may reduce the risk of cognitive decline.  People who walked more than 4,000 steps per day had healthier brain tissue in the area responsible for memory, learning and cognitive function than those who did not during a recent study.  And aerobic exercise is even better for keeping the brain from shrinking in late adulthood, warding off dementia. 
  • Walking may decrease brain-damaging stress.  Repeated exposure to stressful situations impairs memory, attention and cognitive flexibility.   Walking in nature has been shown to be particularly effective at reducing stress levels.  Scientists have seen walking reduce levels of cortisol, which surges during “fight-or-flight” situations.   And elevated cortisol levels may damage cognition and contribute to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. 

So, now be sure to get out those tennis shoes and get moving.  Your brain health will certainly benefit and so will your body!  Find a great outdoor trail, a favorite beach or an indoor mall, but get out there and move.  You will be glad you did.

Some information courtesy of an article in the AARP magazine. 

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