6 Rea­sons Why Walk­ing Is The Daily Brain Medicine We Re­ally Need


Some­times sci­ence jibes with an­cient wis­dom on sim­ple but de­cep­tively pow­er­ful things. Case in point: walk­ing. A wealth of re­search bol­sters the zen of putting one foot in front of the other, with stronger sci­ence than any sup­ple­ment mar­keter or brain trainer could hope for. Walk­ing is po­tent mood medicine that en­hances think­ing, sharp­ens mem­ory and safe­guards brain health. Here are six rea­sons why you should make it a reg­u­lar part of your day if you’re able.

1. Walk­ing boosts your mood even when you’re not ex­pect­ing it.

In a re­cent study, re­searchers con­ducted three ex­per­i­ments on hun­dreds of col­lege stu­dents to find out if they’d ex­pe­ri­ence a pos­i­tive mood boost while walk­ing, with­out know­ing that walk­ing could be the rea­son. The re­searchers dis­guised each ex­per­i­ment as an al­leged test of some­thing else, all the while track­ing mood changes linked to the sim­ple act of tak­ing a stroll. They found that just 12 min­utes of walk­ing re­sulted in an in­crease in jovi­al­ity, vigor, at­ten­tive­ness and self-con­fi­dence ver­sus the same time spent sit­ting.

2. Walk­ing en­hances cre­ativ­ity, es­pe­cially when you’re seek­ing a so­lu­tion.

A Stan­ford study found that walk­ing in­creased cre­ative in­spi­ra­tion by an av­er­age of 60% ver­sus sit­ting. The ef­fect was ev­i­dent while and shortly af­ter walk­ing any­where be­tween 5 and 16 min­utes. The en­hance­ment was spe­cific to a fla­vor of cre­ativ­ity called “di­ver­gent think­ing,” de­fined as a thought process used to gen­er­ate cre­ative ideas by ex­plor­ing many pos­si­ble so­lu­tions.

3. Walk­ing sparks con­nec­tions be­tween brain cells.

Never un­der­es­ti­mate the power of walk­ing when it comes to spark­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween neu­rons and im­prov­ing brain health. Such were the re­sults of a study on older adults that in­cluded walk­ing along with other forms of ex­er­cise, find­ing that: “One year of walk­ing in­creased func­tional con­nec­tiv­ity be­tween as­pects of the frontal, pos­te­rior and tem­po­ral cor­tices within the De­fault Mode Net­work and a Frontal Ex­ec­u­tive Net­work, two brain net­works cen­tral to brain dys­func­tion in ag­ing.”

4. Walk­ing im­proves work­ing mem­ory.

If you want to sharpen your re­call, lace up and hit the side-

walk. A Ger­man study found that per­for­mance on chal­leng­ing, work­ing mem­ory tasks im­proved for par­tic­i­pants al­lowed to walk at their own steady pace, as op­posed to a slower pace set by the re­searchers. The re­sults were more pro­nounced for the youngest of the study par­tic­i­pants, but ev­ery­one’s work­ing mem­ory im­proved enough to give walk­ing yet another smi­ley face.

5. Walk­ing yields the right rhythm for think­ing.

One of the more in­trigu­ing ar­eas of walk­ing re­search delves into ef­fects of its steady rhythm on how we think. Stud­ies have ex­am­ined ev­ery­thing from the brain-spinal cord con­nec­tion with re­spect to this rhythm to the in­ter­play of neu­ro­log­i­cal func­tion, biome­chan­ics and the forces of grav­ity. The bot­tom line here is still equal parts sci­ence and in­tu­ition, but all signs point to walk­ing in­duc­ing the right rhythm for get­ting think­ing done.

6. Walk­ing is a pow­er­ful way to main­line na­ture.

As I’ve writ­ten about here be­fore, reg­u­larly spend­ing time out­side is a brain elixir like few oth­ers. And when you pair walk­ing with your na­ture boost it’s a win-win, not to men­tion it’s a pleas­ant way to break up the tyranny of sit­ting. If you don’t have scenic hori­zons wait­ing out­side your door, no wor­ries—any out­side time fea­tur­ing a steady pace and a lit­tle green will work.


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