It might surprise you to hear that something as simple as walking can actually improve your brainpower. You don’t even have to engage in full-on power walking to experience these brain-boosting effects! Even a twenty- to thirty-minute walk during your lunch break can have a positive impact on your brain. Here are eight ways science has proven that walking is excellent for your brain.
- Walking Helps Boost Mental Health and Lowers Your Risk of Depression
Walking is an excellent way to improve your mental health. Walking reduces stress and stimulates your brain’s “feel-good” hormones. A 2018 study showed that any kind of moderate aerobic exercise like brisk walking can boost your brain health and lower your risk of developing depression by a third.
- Walking Lowers Physical and Mental Fatigue
A 2008 study by the University of Georgia found that just three sessions a week of a low-intensity exercise like walking can reduce fatigue levels by as much as 65 percent.
- Walking Stimulates Endorphins
Just ten minutes of walking is enough to start your brain releasing endorphins, the brain chemicals that lower stress, boost your mental health, and make you feel good. You’ve heard of the runner’s high? Well, you can get a similar positive rush from a brisk walk!
- Walking Releases the Brain’s Magic Protein
BDNF is all the rage nowadays. Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) has been dubbed the brain’s ‘magic protein’ or “brain fertilizer” as it helps to rewire and build new neural pathways. Scientists believe it can even help lower your risk of Alzheimer’s Disease. And cardiovascular exercise is an easy way to stimulate the production of BDNF and keep your brain in peak condition. According to a study by Pub Med: A single session of moderate-intensity walking increases brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in chronic post-stroke patients.
- Walking Can Improve Your Cognitive Function
According to a small study, “A moderate-intensity walking regimen may reduce symptoms of mild cognitive impairment that are linked to poor blood vessel health in the brain”. A number of studies have shown that the magic amount of twenty to thirty minutes of daily aerobic exercise, such as walking, improves cognitive function and memory.
- Walking Builds Hippocampus Strength
Your hippocampus is the key part of the brain for forming and storing long-term memories. Research has shown that even brief walks can actually increase the size and efficiency of your hippocampus.
- Walking Improves Creativity
It’s no secret that many creative entrepreneurs are known for taking long walks to boost their problem-solving capacity, Steve Jobs being chief among them. Artists, writers, and philosophers have long known the importance of walking for clearing blocked creativity and getting inspiration flowing again. Science can now back this up with a 2014 study by Stanford University that shows that walking increases your creative output by up to sixty percent.
- Walking Increases Blood Flow to the Brain
According to Science Daily: “Researchers found that the foot’s impact during walking sends pressure waves through the arteries that significantly modify and can increase the supply of blood to the brain.” Blood is vital for every organ in your body, not least of all, your brain. That magic twenty-minutes is all it takes to increase the blood flow to your brain to keep it active and healthy.
For an added bonus, try walking first thing in the morning. Exposure to early morning sunlight can help reset your circadian rhythms, which will help you sleep better at night. Better sleep leads to better brain health and performance.
I recently started walking daily for the past few months. Initially, I wanted to boost my cardiovascular health. I had no idea that walking daily was going to be so much fun and beneficial for my brain too. What’s usually good for the heart is usually also good for the brain.
As always, check with your doctor whenever you undertake a new exercise regimen.
Once you get the green light, lace up your walking shoes and let’s get it!
Be well + prosper!