Walk your way to a healthy body… and mind!

We all know that walking regularly helps keep us fit. Many also suggest that staying fit helps ward off mental decline as we age. But is this hypothesis supported by scientific research?

We all know that walking regularly helps keep us fit. Many also suggest that staying fit helps ward off mental decline as we age. But is this hypothesis supported by scientific research?

Many studies suggest that elderly individuals who walk regularly have a lower incidence of mental decline and dementia than their inactive peers. As part of a recent study, 299 participants with an average age of 78 underwent various tests to determine whether they presented signs of cognitive decline or dementia. The researchers also had access to the results of brain scans that had been performed four years previously to measure the amount of grey matter in the participants’ brains. Grey matter is found in different areas of the brain and is known to diminish in many people as they age.

New scans performed four years later revealed that the participants who walked ten to fifteen kilometers a week seemed to have more grey matter in many key areas of the brain than their sedentary peers. At this point in the study, 40 percent of the group had measurable cognitive impairment or even dementia. However, those who walked the most were half as likely to have these problems compared with those who walked the least. These results add support to the theory that walkers undergo less “brain shrinkage,” which is linked to memory problems.

The study also adds weight to the idea that a healthy body helps keep the mind healthy, and is yet another good reason to remain active and to integrate physical exercise into our daily routine as we get older.

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