Physical Exercise and the Brain

April 19, 2010

Exercise used to be a natural part of life and necessary for survival. When we lived in an agricultural society growing fruit and vegetables and raising livestock, physical activity was embedded into every aspect of life. In today’s world where we sit at computers, in front of TVs, drive vehicles for hours a day, have machines that do our work for us exercise has become something we have to schedule into our daily routine.

Take walking for example. Although we now think of it as exercise, there was a time when it was the most common form of transportation. People would say they’d travelled on shank’s pony meaning they got there on there own two legs. Recently there’s been a lot of talk in the news about reducing our carbon footprint and walking is a perfect way to start. Not only will you be improving air quality by leaving your vehicle parked in your driveway but you’ll also be oxygenating your brain which will in turn clear your head and help you think better.

Walking Benefits Seniors
A study published by the JAMA in 2004 suggested that when the cognitive abilities of elderly women were compared, those who walked regularly were less likely to experience age-related memory loss and other declines in mental function.

Late in life my mother developed asthma which really curtailed her walking. She loved to walk and very rarely used her car if her feet could get her there. The decline of her mental abilities seemed to coincide with her diminished capacity for walking. Perhaps in her case this would have happened anyway but I believe she gave up on life when she couldn’t enjoy walking any more.


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