With the new year and new decade upon us, we thought we would share some advice on how to adopt some new healthy habits to keep your brain on top form. At Efamol we are fascinated with how the brain works and what it needs to function optimally. So, over our next few blogs we will share the latest thinking on how you can keep this important organ working at its best.

Walking for brain health.

Walking can sometimes seem like an underrated activity these days, but it is something that can easily be incorporated into our daily routines and has so many health benefits.  A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that those who adhered to a walking program showed significant improvements in blood pressure, slowing of resting heart rate, reduction of body fat and body weight, reduced cholesterol, improved depression scores with better quality of life and increased measures of endurance.

On top of all of the benefits listed above, according to Neuroscientist Shane O’Mara in his new book In Praise Of Walking, walking is particularly important for brain health.

“Regular walking acts as a brake on the aging of our brains, and can, in an important sense, reverse the aging of our brains. Walking is also associated with improved creativity, improved mood, and the general sharpening of our thinking.

Immobility over long periods, slows brain activity down, but the minute we stand up, we become cognitively mobile. Our electrical brain rhythms become more active blood flow through the body and brain increases, our breathing changes and we immediately become more alert.”

Walking also reduces cortisol production and increases creativity. In one experiment, O’Mara and colleagues compared the creativity of a group of outdoor walkers to a group of indoor sitters by asking them all to come up with as many uses as possible for a set of reading glasses. The results showed the first group to be consistently more imaginative. People often say they get their best ideas while walking for good reason.”

Dr Dyall at the University of Roehampton has been researching the link between how fast we walk (GAIT speed)  and brain function and adds: “Walking is a very complex task, it involves not just balance and co-ordination but also integration of all the sensory information, such as what is happening around you.  Walking has a very high cognitive load, meaning that it takes a lot of brain capacity just to walk. If you ever watch a toddler learning to walk you can see that it is a very complex skill. If you perform another activity whilst walking, for example talking on the phone, your brain must coordinate these activities which becomes harder as we get older, and in conditions such as dementia. We can measure the effects of these tasks on walking performance and use the results as a type of window into the brain What studies have shown is that a decline in walking speed can be a strong indicator of the risk of going onto develop cognitive impairment.”

Public Health England (PHE) have launched an app called Active 10 to help encourage us all to take a daily 10 minute brisk walk.

“A daily brisk walk can make you feel better in so many ways. It can boost your energy, clear your head and lift your mood. It can help with many health issues, such as lower back pain and those at risk of high blood pressure. It’s also great for your long-term health – it can reduce your risk of serious illnesses like heart disease, anxiety, depression, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.”