A recent study carried out has shown that taking a regular brisk walk could slow down brain shrinkage and increase the size of parts of the brain linked to memory and planning.
The study, which took place at the University of Pittsburgh, looked at men and women aged 60 to 80 over the course of a year, and showed that a short walk 2 to 3 times a week increased the size of the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex by around 2-3%.
Professor Kirk Erickson, the Pittsburgh University neuroscientist behind the study, commented, “It may sound like a modest amount, but that’s actually like reversing the age clock by about one to two years.”
Erickson studied a group of more than 100 adults who took little to no exercise. 50% of the group were told to take 30-45 minute walks three times a week, whilst the remainder did gentle stretching exercises. Whilst both groups showed a slight increase in brain region size, the results were more noticeable in those who walked.
Erickson continued, “You don’t need vigorous physical activity to see these effects. The results suggest that brain and cognitive functions in older adults remain plastic and highly malleable. There is not the inevitable decline that we used to think there was.”
It’s unclear at this stage how long improvements would last, but it’s thought that exercise could slow the onset of dementia.