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Even a 10-min walk is good for the brain

Updated: Feb 18, 2019


Whenever a doctor advises a patient to go for a walk every day to improve health, the commonest excuse given is lack of time. “Oh no, I am a busy man. I have too many meetings and appointments to juggle every day, so I can’t promise a walk on a daily basis but I will surely try”….Well, as they say, where there is a will, there is a way, so it’s all in the mind. But if you keep coaxing the patient to shell out time, once again the same story repeats itself.


The commonest misconception regarding physical exercise is that it has to be done daily and vigorously for a good length of time, say 60 minutes or so. That is not true anymore. We have recent scientific data coming in which says that even a ten-minute walk is good for you, although not necessarily for your muscles alone.


When laboratory animals are made to run on wheels or treadmills, they develop more new brain cells than if they remain sedentary. Many of the new cells are clustered in the hippocampus, a portion of the brain that is essential for memory creation and storage so the animals show better performance in tests of learning and memory.


Such studies are obviously not possible in humans but there are other ways of testing this hypothesis. Scientists from the University of California, Irvine, and the University of Tsukuba in Japan turned to a group of healthy young college students. They monitored the subjects with sophisticated imaging techniques like MRI and corroborated them with clinical testing of brain function. The results were quite impressive, if not amazing. Even a short bout of physical exercise raised the brain function significantly.


Evidently, physical exercise is not only good for muscles and the heart but it can also change people’s brains and minds right away without requiring weeks of working out. Even better, the exertion required can be so slight as to allow almost anyone, even those who are out of shape or possibly disabled, to complete the exercise


(Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, September 2018).

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