Want to maintain your cognitive brain function over time, then incorporate fast-paced walking into your exercise and mobility routines. Now findings from a new study published in the Journals of Gerontology suggests that longer-term, fast walking may preserve brain matter as we naturally age.
In the study, researchers assessed brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data in 312 participants in the ongoing Health, Aging, and Body composition study. Brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), a medical imaging technique, is used in radiology to form pictures of the anatomical and physiological processes of the brain and can detect inflammation or disease of the brain. Participants in this study, whose mean age was 83 years, were also asked to walk along a 20-meter corridor from a standing start during both a usual-paced walking task and a fast-paced walking task. Participants were instructed to walk “as you normally would” and “as fast as you can,” respectively. Time to finish the tasks was recorded by a stopwatch and converted to speed in m/s. Average walking speed was 1.0 m/s (SD = 0.21) for usual-paced walking and 1.4 m/s (SD = 0.34) for fast-paced walking.
The study analysis showed that even after adjustment for demographic variables (such as age, gender, medical history and baseline cognitive function), fast-paced walking speed but not usual-paced walking speed was correlated with greater grey matter density on MRI in several areas of the brain including the superior frontal gyrus. The superior frontal gyrus is a part of the frontal brain lobe involved with self-awareness, laughter and coordination of the sensory systems such as vision, hearing, touch, taste, smell, and balance. Preserving grey matter density is important as it serves to process information in the brain and can decrease with age. Findings from this study support incorporating fast-paced walking to enhance brain grey matter density as we naturally age. This study is consistent with prior studies that have shown that one of the most significant impacts of exercise on the brain is its influence in optimizing the readiness for the brain to process new information by being alert, focused, and motivated.
So get walking and keep it in the fast lane.
You can read the full study at https://academic.oup.com/biomedgerontology/advance-article/doi/10.1093/gerona/glaa091/5819788
Full reference: Nemin Chen, MPH, Caterina Rosano, MD, MPH, Helmet T Karim, PhD, Stephanie A Studenski, MD, MPH, Andrea L Rosso, PhD, Regional Gray Matter Density Associated With Fast-Paced Walking in Older Adults: A Voxel-Based Morphometry Study, The Journals of Gerontology: Series A, glaa091, https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/glaa091