“In healthy adults, the hippocampus — a part of the brain important to the formation of memories — begins to atrophy around 55 or 60. Now psychologists are suggesting that the hippocampus can be modestly expanded, and memory improved, by nothing more than regular walking.”
I like the idea that walking will help the aging brain by expanding the hippocampus and improving memory.
For many not very important reasons, it is a difficult thing for me to find the time to walk regularly for exercise when it should be fairly easy. After all I do have two feet, walking shoes, and warm clothes.
It is hard to believe that a person’s brain begins to atrophy after a certain age and there actually is relatively nothing you can do about it. A couple of years ago I had a pretty severe fall and hit my head on a park bench. To make things worse, I was on Coumadin, a medication which thins the blood so the emergency room physician was concerned about a possible bleed into the head. So a CAT scan was ordered, which fortunately was normal. But it did reveal some atrophy which I was horrified to read on my report.
My husband ,who is a radiologist, assured me that this is a normal finding for someone my age. Oh well…so much for getting older.
After reading this NY Times article on the benefits of walking, the positives are hard to disregard. Certainly, I want to remain vibrant with a good memory so I will begin to walk. I will make every effort to keep it up at regular intervals in addition to doing yoga for relaxation and strength training.
Yoga has been excellent for me, it is very calming and helps to maintain balance in my life as well as mindfulness. Done regularly it helped me to gain and maintain strength and flexibility in my muscles. I was able to recover from open-heart surgery much easier because due to added strength in my leg muscles.
For about six weeks after heart surgery I was not able to put any pressure on my arms so that my sternum would heal leg strength becomes very important for easy movement. Yoga allowed me to then gain the strength back in my arms once I was able to fully use them again.
The benefits of yoga are something I happily acknowledge and I find doing yoga at home easy but walking is a different story for me. I like to walk where there are interesting things to see and I live for people watching. Walking through the city streets is definitely my kind of thing.
But I live in the suburbs so this is a problem…I am not that at ease walking past houses that look empty and I would not ever consider walking through any of the wooded paths or parks…just not my thing. So I have put the outdoor shopping mall near my home on my walking schedule. I have also considered driving into the city and walking around some neighborhoods that I haven’t visited in awhile. When it gets warmer I would actually enjoy a walk along Chicago’s lakefront. How great would that be?
So I have issued my self a challenge to gradually build up my walking times to something therapeutic, the recommended 40 minutes 3 times a week so that next year at this time I still have at least the same memory capacity that I have right now or perhaps even a better memory.