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Walking for Brain Health

Each week I’m challenged to come up with a new topic to write about in this space. When I get “stuck” I generally go for a walk because I’ve discovered that I often come up with ideas while walking, whether I’m walking on or off the Ice Age Trail. That got me to thinking about the connection between walking and brain activity.

As I looked into this a bit I found multiple references to a study done at Stanford and published in 2014. This study found that walking is more likely to lead to creative thinking than sitting, with the act of walking increasing creative output by an average of 60%. This boost in creative thinking continued even after the walk was done.  Other information I found about brain science indicated that when we walk our heart pumps faster, circulating more blood and oxygen to the brain and increasing its ability to function. Furthermore, walking on a regular basis promotes new connections between brain cells, which helps counteract the usual withering of brain tissue that happens as part of the aging process.

When we walk we don’t have to think about what we’re doing (unless we’re on a section of trail with lots of tripping hazards!) so our attention is free to wander, which often leads to innovative ideas and insights into whatever it is that is on our mind. And when you pair walking with being outdoors, which has also been found to contribute to better brain health, you get even more overall benefit from your walk.

Henry David Thoreau once wrote “Methinks that the moment my legs being to move, my thoughts begin to flow.” Next time you’re puzzling over a problem or just feel the need for a creative boost you can help get your thought processes going by enjoying a stroll…..Along the Ice Age Trail.

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