Walking for Brain health

Photo by Yogendra Singh from Pexels

On the last day of Brain health Awareness Month, it seemed appropriate to write about something I have been campaining for in varoius ways, for alost as long as I have had dementia. I’ve campaigned often to refer to (re-label) an activity as normal as walking, instead of labelling it as wandering.

Something as simple as a daily brisk walk can help everyone live a healthier life. It can help you maintain a healthy weight and lose body fat, can help prevent or manage various conditions, including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, cancer and type 2 diabetes.

It is even one of the strategies for reducing dementia risk, and it is time that walking and other exercise is prescribed and promoted for people diagnosed with dementia, just as exercise and other lifestyle changes are recommended for other chronic health conditions. It also improves wellbeing and quality of life.

Walking has been shown to change our brain, and for the better, andmore studies are being done now showing the effects of walking on the brain. Endorphins increase and stress levels become significantly lowered. Lower impact exercises like walking also aid in the overall brain health and even reduce the percentage of dementia. Walking also improves overall mental and emotional health, reduces stress and helps us maintain higher level of endorphins.

Physically fit older people also tend to have more volume in their brain’s hippocampus than do sedentary people of the same age, brain scans show. The hippocampus is the portion of the brain most intimately linked with memory function. But most of this research has examined whether exercise might prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

In one pilot study, Aerobic exercise for Alzheimer’s disease: A randomized controlled pilot trial, researchers concluded that “Aerobic exercise in early AD is associated with benefits in functional ability. Exercise-related gains in cardiorespiratory fitness were associated with improved memory performance and reduced hippocampal atrophy, suggesting cardiorespiratory fitness gains may be important in driving brain benefits.”

The article, 10 Things That Happen to Your Body If You Walk Every Day also highlights benefits of walking, even including improving eyesight, and the article links to a number of studies on the benefits of walking. In my own small study as part of my Masters of Science in Dementia Care degree, it was clear the benefits of walking for residents living in a nursing home were profound. Ditching the label of wandering is imperative, so that people with dementia and without dementia livign in nursing homes are encourated to walk more.


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