Why Walking is Important for a Healthy Brain.
Gautama Buddha, the great thinker and saint from 400 BC India, was said to have walked for seven days after he attained enlightenment. Legends say, the Enlightenment came to him in an epiphany, and he needed to make sense of it. To do that, he chose to walk, and the full realization of his knowledge took root in his mind in that time.
Ancient wisdom and modern science may disagree on many things, but this is one place they are in absolute agreement. Walking is great for your brain, and not just because any kind of physical exercise has a positive impact. Multiple studies have shown that daily walking has direct and significant benefit for your brain.
3rd April was National Walking Day in the US, and this seems like the perfect opportunity to talk about those benefits here.
Why walking is important
Aerobic exercises have long been known to benefit long-term cognitive functioning, and walking is a part of that. But walking is also a very mundane and natural activity that humans learn through their evolutionary make-up itself. Unlike other work out forms which require specific knowledge and learning, walking is an inseparable part of a healthy human being’s life from a very early age.
Humans are evolved to walk, and a large host of medical problems in this era is rooted in a sedentary lifestyle that minimizes walking. Hence, the benefits you receive from walking is actually your brain being harmonious with its original built.
Benefits of walking
- Increases blood supply to brain
A 2017 study by New Mexico Highland University researchers points to a direct link between walking and brain health – and it’s rather simple. When you walk your feet create impact against the ground. This impact sends pressure waves through your arteries that have direct links to your brain, and can significantly modify and increase blood circulation in your brain.
- Enhances creativity
Divergent thinking, or the ability to connect ideas that are apparently dissimilar, is one of the main components of human creativity. Walking is especially beneficial to the growth of your divergent thinking abilities, and therefore to your creativity. A recent Stanford University study found that walking increases creative inspiration in your brain by an average 60% compared to just sitting and thinking. Walking for as little as five to 16 minutes can get your creative juices flowing much more easily.
- Prevents brain decline
Regular walking has been linked with regeneration of connections between brain cells, especially in older adults. A 2010 study found that one year of regular walking significantly increases the neural connections between the frontal, posterior, and temporal cortices of the brain. This in turn strengthens the connection between our default-mode network and executive functioning network, the two areas of the brain that suffers the worst kind of dysfunctions in old age. This means, regular walking can prevent and/or lower the rate of brain decline in old age, thereby offering protection from brain degeneration diseases like Dementia and Alzheimer’s.
- Improves mood and memory
You don’t even have to walk as a form of exercise. Just casual strolling for as little as 12 minutes can significantly improve your mood, enhance your positivity and overall focus, attentiveness, motivation, and recall capacities. A 2016 study with hundreds of college students found that walking lightens our mood even when we are not expecting it, or even going through difficult situations. An improved mood and focus in turn enhances our working memory, which increases our recall and retaining capacities.
A lot of us shirk from exercises, or may not find time for it. But walking is easy, and can be seamlessly incorporated into your daily routine without taxing your brain too much, as it comes to us so naturally. So the next time you go grocery shopping, give that cab a miss and walk to the store instead. Trust us, your brain will thank you!