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Why Walking Can Be Good For Your Brain (But Only If You Do It Slowly)

Walking at least 6 miles per week appears to maintain brain volume and preserve memory in old age according to University of Pittsburgh research published in Neurology 2010 but researchers have also warned that walking too fast may undo some of these health benefits…

To understand this let’s look at someone walking at a normal pace and compare it to someone fast “power walking”…

At a normal walking pace (see left picture), you can see that the head is in an ideal upright posture with the ears positioned directly above the shoulders.

When you go to walk too fast (see right picture), your head moves further forward in an attempt to create further momentum to speed you up and creates what we call “forward head posture“. This generally happens when you walk faster than 6 km/hour (walk one kilometre in 10 minutes). Unfortunately, this forward head posture has surprisingly dramatic effects on your brain and nervous system…

Notice the ears are sitting directly above the shoulders

Notice the ears are sitting directly above the shoulders

Notice the ears are now positioned well forward of the line of the shoulders

Notice the ears are now positioned well forward of the shoulders

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forward head posture causes reduced nerve signals from the muscles and joints of the back of your neck and upper back to your brain. According to the University of Nevada, this results in disruption of what they call the “thalamocortical rhythm” which, according to Geitmann, leads to “cerebral atrophy” which means degeneration of the brain!

What’s interesting is that these degenerative changes due to forward head posture begin in the parts of the brain to do with your behaviour, personality and perception of your environment!

For a healthy brain, make sure you walk with your head up in an upright posture (and not looking down to the ground) and take in the beautiful scenery around you. Do this at an intensity causing you to puff gently… and there is no benefit to be gained by rushing!

If you find that you are walking a kilometre every ten minutes and aren’t puffing, it is time to start jogging rather than faster power walking. The bouncing up and down motion in running is great for boosting your aerobic fitness and is also a brilliant way to improve your bone density and the health of the discs in your back.

If you hate running consider jogging on the spot on a mini-trampoline but what is most important is to stay active and stay relaxed.

 

 

 

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