Research suggests that walking up to 40 minutes several times a week can result in the part of the brain which retains memory growing. Tests have been conducted over the last year on 120 volunteers who already show signs of dementia and loss of brain function.
The hippocampus in the brain typically shrinks as we get older; however the research shows that the volunteers, who were asked to walk for 40 minutes a day three times a week, demonstrated a volume increase of 2 per cent. This compared to individuals in the study who only did stretching exercises and no physical walking, whose hippocampus actually decreased in volume by 1.4 per cent.
Research shows that there are several chemical markers running around the body which are associated with brain health, including brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF), a small molecule which is involved in learning and memory. It was found that the increase in the hippocampus was associated with the additional amounts of BDNF in the body after exercise.
These interesting results suggest that modest amounts of exercise by older adults can actually lead to improvements in memory and brain health and that it is never too late to start exercising to keep the brain healthy.