Janna and I are crazy about walking. We take at least two, brisk, 30-minute, walks each day. During the work week, Janna runs her urban core routine as part of her daily commute via trains and her shoes, and I rally around the neighborhood between writing breaks. At night, we take our final walk of the day together to review our day apart and to chat about plans for the next day.
We’ve been using this strict walking routine for about a year — before that, we walked, but just for fun and without a real purpose other than getting some fresh air — now our walking increases our stamina and heart rate.
We walk on a clock, and not by distance, because the more you walk, the faster you walk, and you start to cover more ground in less time. Using a time limit forces us to walk beyond the bounds of an ordinary walk that might end by touching a neighborhood landmark instead of testing how far we can walk in a 30 minute window.
We were delighted to learn that walking has great benefits to the brain as well as the body:
For their the study, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh, University of Illinois, Rice University and Ohio State University divided 120 sedentary adults in their mid to late 60s, on average, into two groups: one group walked around a track for 40 minutes of aerobic exercise, three days a week, while the other group (the control group) did stretching.
Both groups performed better on a test of spatial memory. Spatial memory helps us to remember things like driving directions or where we left our keys.
But the groups differed in one important way. MRI brain scans showed that after a year on the exercise program, the aerobic exercise group’s hippocampus was about 2 percent bigger than it was when they started, the equivalent to a reversal in age-related brain shrinkage of about one to two years, the researchers said.
Those in the stretching group had a decrease of hippocampal volume of about 1.4 percent, the investigators found..
We will definitely continue our communing walks — because we now have scientific proof of what our bodies, and brains, were already telling us — it’s better to get out and about and test your balance and regulate your body in motion instead of just sitting and stretching and remaining in stasis.