Remembering to Walk

The quick answer:  For better memory, try and remember to walk.


Sensible Eating

I suppose you’ve noticed how I’ve come under the power of readers who make comments.  For the third year now, our focus is helping people “eat smarter, look better, and live longer.”  Those who comment shape our thinking and guide the research.

So we appreciated the comment in the last post, from a woman who walks 5K daily.  "Walking," she said, "helped me through the passing of my husband."  She also finds it a good anti-depressant, one with beneficial side effects. 

She also, ahem, gave this compliment:  “Love the blog; looked a long time for W of W sensibility before I found it.  Thank you.”

Sensibility!  All this led me to this Biblical thought on a recent walk:  We should exercise as Jesus did—by walking.  You learn when you walk and ponder; think of the teachings Jesus delivered during walks.


We know walking is good for the body, but what helps the brain?  A NY Times article, “How Exercise Could Lead to a Better Brain,” summarized a recent study.  There is a link between exercise and the genes in brain cells, even in laboratory mice.  One study of elderly mice found 117 genes that expressed differently when the mice ran, rather than sit around.

Running isn’t the best exercise for many people but walking is also beneficial.  A recent one-year study assigned 120 older people to one of two exercises:  stretching or walking. 

Though there are benefits to both exercises (stretching, for example, has been found to improve vascular health) walking was uniquely good for the brain.  The hippocampus is the part of our brain involved in storing and organizing short-term memory.  Starting about age 20, we lose about 1% of our hippocampus each year.  The hippocampus is one of the first areas damaged by Alzheimer’s disease.

In this study the group who walked actually reversed hippocampal shrinkage.  In one year of walking they regained two years of hippocampus loss.  In addition, the walkers had higher levels of BDNF, a chemical that creates and organizes new brain cells.  The walkers also performed better on cognitive tests.

Want a younger brain with better memory?  Walk!  Or better yet, dance.  Dancing is like walking, but also involves coordination with a partner, and other nice things.

Next Post

I know the theme of this week is exercise, but I think you readers understand this quite well.  So, in the next post we'll revisit fats—healthy and unhealthy.  I think 2013 might be the year Americans forget what they’ve been told and really figure out fats.

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Reader Comments (7)

I love this post. My Grandma was as healthy as she could be when she passed away in her mid-80's, and her brain was extremely sharp. When she designed her home she looked to her home-country, France, for design inspiration. She built a 3 level house with the garage attached to the basement. She wanted a long incline of stairs so that she would "get daily exercise" when she was older. Although, this did make her house difficult to sell after she passed it was a great home and the woman who eventually bought it said something along the lines of how great it would be to get exercise going into and out of the house each day, especially when she had groceries.

February 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCammie

Hooray for walks! My favorite thing! Whether alone, with friends, on a date or with my dog. It's my favorite part of my day. And, yes, a wonderful time to think and ponder. Great insights come while walking.

February 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKristen

I love walking and it's something I can do easily with my young children (except for a few months in the winter).

I think another post on fats is a good idea. I'm always surprised at how this nonsense about low fat and low saturated fat has persisted. I was just at a Relief Society activity the other day where the teacher was advising the ladies to choose chicken breast over salmon because salmon has too much fat. Of course, avoiding sugar wasn't mentioned. I wanted to scream!

February 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAnn

Hi Ann
I had to laugh at your story of chicken being recommended over salmon because salmon contains fat. Lipophobia (check it in Wikipedia) is the American eating disorder caused by the government's 1977 campaign against traditional dietary fats, meaning animal fats, in favor of polyunsaturated factory fats. The reduced-fat products that followed also tended to have more sugar to restore flavor.

That all started over a generation ago and it may take another generation to undo this terrible error. Best to you.

February 8, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterskip hellewell

We often do walks as a family and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine in the winter and the stars at night in the hot Phoenix summers! There is something good that happens when we are out looking at God's creations.
Question: what are your thoughts on acrylamide.

February 8, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLaNae

Hi LaNae
No one is thinking much about acrylamide but that could change any day. Acrylamide is mainly found in commercial foods; it's not an additive but a time-temperature reaction of sugar with certain amino acids. Basically the Maillard reaction that "browns" foods also causes acrylamide to form, starting at temperatures over 250F.

Acrylamide is potentially harmful as it is considered a carcinogen, neurotoxin, and possible cause of infertility. First discovered in 2002, there hasn't been time, or funding, to prove it's actual role. Neither the EU or the USA have yet set limits on acrylamide in food.

These are ways to reduce your exposure (starting with worst causes):
1. Don't smoke or inhale second hand smoke.
2. Avoid deep fat fried foods, especially French fries.
3. Don't drink coffee, especially instant coffee or roasted coffee substitutes.
4. Avoid or minimize commercial cereal and bakery products, especially with brown crust. This includes potato chips, a big source, and corn chips.
5. Do your own baking and follow the "golden rule"—cook until a golden color develops but don't brown. It would help to minimize eating toast—a favorite treat of mine. Children who don't want to eat the darkest crust on the top of breads now have science on their side.

Thanks for raising the acrylamide issue; we should make it a future post. Alert readers will notice that the Healthy Changes of Word of Wisdom Living pretty much protect families from this little known toxin. Best to you.

February 8, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterskip hellewell

Thankyou for this post. I used to run a lot but had to stop when it started causing pain. Walking for exercise felt lame because it wasn't running, and that's what old people do (no offense to old people) This motivated me to walk! It's better than nothing, which is what I do now, and that is lame.

February 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterHollie

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