Ed Pomfred is the Director of the Keep Moving Program, Healthy Aging and Disability Unit, MA DPH.
Have you been reading the latest news on walking? What could possibly be new in walking? I mean, it’s just one step in front of another, right? It’s an easy way to exercise. We don’t even think about it half the time. But, according to several recent articles, research has shown additional benefits to walking. A quick synopsis:
Walking helps keep body and brain young: A story reported by Doreen Internicola a Reuters Health article, 9/13/2010 - A comparison study was done between a group of 20-30 year olds and 60 to 80 year olds. Brain function was measured through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) by examing brain networks. As members of walking group of 60 to 80 year olds became more physically fit, it was found that the coherence among different regions in the brains networks increase and became similar to those of the 20 year olds.
Walking could ward off dementia and mental decline. BBC Health News, 10/13/2010 - Elderly people who get about by walking are less likely to suffer mental decline or even dementia, a study finds. Brain scans revealed that older people walking between six and nine miles a week appeared to have more brain tissue in key areas. Pittsburgh University followed 1,479 people over a four year period. Of that group, 299 people, the report suggested that they had less “brain shrinkage”, which is linked to memory problems. Those who walked the most were half as likely to have these problems compared with those who walked the least. Dr. Kirk Erickson, who led the study, said: “If regular exercise in midlife could improve brain health and improve thinking and memory later in life, it would be one more reason to make regular exercise in people of all ages a public health imperative.”
It sounds like Hippocrates had it right after all. Walking is man's best medicine. -Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine (460-377 BC)
So, this winter will you be a hibernating bear or an active, engaged walker? We’re not bears, so why hibernate? Extend your walking routine to include walking inside. Many communities have nearby malls or a public school with an indoor track. These are great places to share a walk with a friend in a weather controlled environment. Think outside the box, as in inside a nice warm building. No ice, snow, sleet or cold, driving rain.
The Keep Moving Program improves the lives of people over age 50 by promoting physical activity to help prevent and postpone chronic disease, build healthy bodies and minds, and keep individuals socially connected.