Walking or Stretches – Which is Better for Your Brain?

By on March 7, 2013

Exercise helps your memory. Right?

But what kind of exercise is best for you?

Some will tell you walking.

Others will tell you stretching and toning.

Or maybe it is a combination of both?

120 healthy adults in USA, aged 55 – 80, were surprised by the results of an important study carried out by a large group of researchers from the universities of Pittsburg, Illinois, Ohio and Rice, Houston, published in January, 2011 by the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. (Want to read the full study?)

To achieve a remarkable 2% growth in brain mass, all they needed was the motivation to walk three days a week for a year with a trained exercise leader.

They started by walking for 10 minutes and increased their walking duration weekly by 5-minute increments until a duration of 40 minutes was achieved at week 7. They walked for 40 minutes per session for the remainder of the programme and all walking sessions started and ended with approximately 5 minutes of stretching for the purpose of warming up and cooling down. Participants wore heart rate monitors and the target heart rate zone was 50–60% of the maximum heart rate reserve for weeks 1 to 7 and 60–75% for the remainder of the programme.

How did the brain grow?

An important area of the brain is the hippocampus. Hippocampal volume shrinks 1–2% annually in older adults without dementia (1), and this loss of volume increases the risk for developing cognitive impairment (2).

After one-year of aerobic walking, hippocampal volume was increased by 2%, offsetting the deterioration associated with ageing. Because hippocampal volume shrinks 1–2% annually, a 2% increase in hippocampal volume is equivalent to adding between one and two years worth of volume to the hippocampus for this age group.

What was even more surprising was that the control group, who did just stretches and body toning, scored only a fraction better than people who took no exercise at all.

What does this mean for you?

Get out your walking shoes and get started today!

For sure, there will be a walking group in your neighbourhood ……

Originally posted on Brain and Memory Foundation.

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Walking or Stretches – Which is Better for Your Brain?