Worried About Your Memory? Take a Walk
Your brain likes to walk.
Posted Mar 03, 2011
Can't remember names? Birthdays?
Sex grows brain memory areas - in mice. But what works in people?
There are numerous studies showing that walking can prevent Alzheimer's. Can it improve memory?
A recent research study at the University of Pittsburgh was simplicity itself. Two groups of adults were looked at, from age 55-80. Both groups did little "exercise."
They were split in two. One was asked to walk three times a week. The goal was 40 minutes a time, though rather few made it that long. The other group spent the same amount of time stretching, doing yoga and lifting weights.
At the end of the year, the walking group showed improved memory. And something else - a bigger hippocampus - a 2% increase.
The group that stretched showed a decline of 1.4% of hippocampal size.
Why should you care? The hippocampus is critical for memory.
How Memory Works
The hippocampus engages in a near endless conversation with the cortex to entrain memory. As I explained in a previous article (Sleep, Memory - February 1st in therestdoctor.com) much of this conversation takes place at night - during sleep. In study done at the University of Lubeck, reactivating memories by placing an odor in people's nostrils during deep sleep markedly improved memory and learning scores.
You grow your memory storage in sleep. You learn while you sleep and rest.
What these and other studies are also saying is:
1. You can literally grow new memory storage - if you walk.
2. The memory cell growth is primarily in the hippocampus, not in the cortex.
3. Brain derived nerve cell growth factors increase with walking.
4. The new cells made are used within days, letting you store more knowledge - and potentially learn more.
5. Not only do the results show up with better memory - you see an actual anatomic change in the brain as a result of walking.
Walking For Your Health
Humans are walking machines. We have walked across the face of the earth. We walk alone and in groups. We walk to wars and we walk to demonstrate for peace.
We walk for our health and survival.
What's most remarkable is how well walking works in all age groups; in rather small amounts; that it prevents heart attacks and strokes; opens up arteries; controls blood pressure; changes digestion and weight gain; improves mood; helps prevents certain tumors.
In a word, walking regenerates us.
Your regeneration project is critical to your survival. If you can walk you can regenerate multiple cell groups, from your brain to your muscles. You can also walk to visit and socialize; walk to obtain sunlight and fresh air; walk to experience the innate human pleasure in nature.
Walking can and should be used for many different kinds of active rest: physical, mental, social, and yes, spiritual. People have been using walking meditation for thousands of years, and walking in nature is one of our fastest ways to better mood. And even if some find it less pleasurable than sex, walking will grow your brain.
Like most regenerative activities, the rebuilding of your body occurs without your seeing it. Yet it is brought on by the simplest activities - walking, talking, laughing.
So when you go out with a friend for a walk, tell them you have another reason for wanting to see them - a chance to rebuild yourself and improve your mind.
Is it really this easy to help prevent Alzheimer's disease and many of the major health scourges of mankind?
Yes it is.