Walking Your Way To Good Brain Health

We know that walking is good for us, can help us lose weight and generally feel good and now scientist have found it has a positive impact on the brain.

Researchers at New Mexico Highlands University in 2017, 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, which is positive for brain health.

Until recently, the blood supply to the brain (cerebral blood flow or CBF) was thought to be involuntarily regulated by the body and relatively unaffected by changes in the blood pressure caused by exercise or exertion. The NMHU research team and others previously found that the foot’s impact during running caused significant impact-related retrograde (backward-flowing) waves through the arteries that sync with the heart rate and stride rate to dynamically regulate blood circulation to the brain.

From the  study  “New data now strongly suggest that brain blood flow is very dynamic and depends directly on cyclic aortic pressures that interact with retrograde pressure pulses from foot impacts,” the researchers wrote. “There is a continuum of hemodynamic effects on human brain blood flow within pedaling, walking and running. Speculatively, these activities may optimize brain perfusion, function, and overall sense of wellbeing during exercise.”

“What is surprising is that it took so long for us to finally measure these obvious hydraulic effects on cerebral blood flow,” first author Ernest Greene explained. “There is an optimizing rhythm between brain blood flow and ambulating. Stride rates and their foot impacts are within the range of our normal heart rates (about 120/minute) when we are briskly moving along.”

For fitness guides, more information on the benefits of walking and if you’re interested in taking part in Couch to 5k and are in the UK, please visit the NHS website here.

Keep well (and keep walking)

Dr Clara Russell