Tag Archives: brain health

walking improves brain health

Gentle Reader,


To my delight, my signature byline, Be Well, Do Well and Keep moving, points as much to brain health as managing arthritis. Recent studies show that walking improves brain health.


In August 2010, Live Science reported on a study involving a group of “Professional Couch-Potatoes.” This is what one researcher called the 69 adults, aged 59 – 80, who were sedentary before entering the study. I mean sedentary: they reported exercising no more than twice in the previous six months. The study compared this group of inactive people with thirty-two 18 – 35 year olds.

Couch potato
Couch potato


The result? Walking at one’s own pace for 40 minutes three times a week can enhance the connectivity of important brain circuits and combat declines in brain function associated with aging and increase performance on cognitive tasks.

The goal was not to study specific brain function, but to study connectivity. “Almost nothing in the brain gets done by one area; it’s more of a circuit,” study researcher Art Kramer, psychology professor at the University of Illinois, said in a statement. “These networks can become more or less connected. In general, as we get older, they become less connected, so we were interested in the effects of fitness on connectivity of brain networks that show the most dysfunction with age.”

Previous studies showed a loss of coordination in the DMN (Default Mode Network) when a person is least engaged with the outside world either passively observing something or simply daydreaming. This networking failure is a common symptom of aging and in extreme cases can be a marker of disease, study researcher Michelle Voss said.

DMNPeople with Alzheimer’s disease tend to have less activity in this network and they tend to have less connectivity, Voss said. Low connectivity means that the different parts of the circuit are not operating in sync. Like poorly trained athletes on a rowing team, the brain regions that make up the circuit lack coordination and so do not function at optimal efficiency or speed.

In a healthy, young brain, activity in the DMN quickly diminishes when a person engages in an activity that requires focus on the external environment. Older people, people with Alzheimer’s disease and those who are schizophrenic have more difficulty “down-regulating” the DMN so that other brain networks can come to the fore, Kramer said.

In this study by Kramer, Voss and their colleagues, they found that older adults who are more fit tend to have better connectivity in specific regions of the DMN than their sedentary peers. Those with more connectivity in the DMN also tend to be better at planning, prioritizing, strategizing and multi-tasking.

Just by walking three times a week for 40 minutes, DMN connectivity was significantly improved in the brains of the older walkers, but not in the stretching and toning group, the researchers report.

If you have friends or relatives who sit around with the remote, tell them about this study and see if they would be willing to get out and walk. It could make a big difference.

One Way to Ward Off Alzheimer’s: Take a Hikeold people walking

The study began with 299 dementia-free participants, ages 70 to 90, in 1989. Researchers measured how many blocks they walked per week and, at 9 and 13 years after the initial examination, scientists assessed them with high-resolution magnetic resonance imagining (MRI).

In a final evaluation,116 of these people were diagnosed with dementia or mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which can lead to Alzheimer’s disease, while 169 (excluding those deceased prior to the follow-up) remained free of these conditions.

No one has taken a snap shot of an elderly group and followed them over time prior to this study. The participants agreed to walk at least one mile per day. Erickson’s study found that walking at least one mile per day significantly enhanced the volume of several regions of the brain, including the frontal lobe, which is involved in reasoning and problem-solving.

The researchers also found people who walked that distance reduced their risk of cognitive impairment by about half. However, walking more than one mile every day did not further improve brain volume.

We don’t need to do much, but we do need to do something, every day. In my recent visit with the Sports Medicine doctor, she dissuaded me from getting a cortisone shot for my sciatic pain. She gave me some new stretches and said, “Walk 30 minutes every day without fail. It’s the best medicine.”

If my pain is acute, I leave home with walking sticks.

Walking sticks ease the pain.
Walking sticks ease the pain.

Before long, the pain eases up.  BTW, I also take several of Shaklee’s Pain Relieve Complex herbal tablets during the day, depending on how bad the pain is.

It looks as though this advice is helping my brain as well as my joints.

Join me!

Be Well, Do Well and Keep Moving,


206 933 1889

www.hihohealth.com  shopping for Shaklee

www.EmpoweredGrandma.com  for travel suggestions and reflections





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brain exercises

Gentle Reader,

Brain exercises are instructive to any of us who experience lapses of memory or feel muddled in our thinking. May I share a recent posting by Dr. Jamie Mc Manus, Chair of Medical Affairs at Shaklee?  Her comments help with life in general but more specifically with understanding the role of exercise in brain health.


If you are looking to banish “brain fog,” forget your forgetfulness, and even support a better mood, then look no further than your running shoes. Exercise, it turns out, is an outstanding way for you to protect (or even enhance) your brain’s health.

Exercise is so powerful at helping the brain, scientists are suggesting that exercise can decrease cognitive decline, and it may even help you recover some function that you might feel you have lost. So, if you find yourself searching everywhere for your keys, struggling to remember names, or just feeling that you aren’t as sharp as you once were, then your first stop should be your local gym. 

 Personally, it would be outdoors that I would go searching for help, preferring a walk in the fresh air to the gym.  But a walk it is, no matter where, that will help unclog the brain.

When you are looking to keep your brain fit and functional, then make sure you include both physical and mental exercise.

 Physical exercise

For optimum brain health, you need both regular and moderately intense brain exercises.

Regular exercise means doing something aerobic (such as walking, jogging, swimming, or biking) at least 3-4 times a week (more is better) and moderate-intensity exercise is the type of exercise where you push yourself to new limits. For example, when walking, instead of a leisurely stroll, try to push yourself and pick up the pace. The key here is to breathe a little hard, but not hard enough that it is difficult for you to carry on a conversation.

 Regular exercise improves circulation throughout the body, including the brain. More blood means more nutrients and oxygen-rich blood going to your brain. Laboratory studies have demonstrated that exercise influences the synthesis and release of several neurotransmitters (such as norepinephrine, serotonin, GABA, and acetylcholine) and enhances the production of a growth factor called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).[i]


 Exercise is good for the whole body and it helps to maintain healthy blood pressure, improves energy, helps lower stress and anxiety, improves mood, is good for heart health, and helps you maintain a healthy weight—all of which are beneficial for YOU and your brain.

 Mental exercise

Your mental capacity is no different from the rest of your body: you have to use it or lose it.

Part of creating your own brain fitness program is to stimulate your brain on a regular basis. When you do this, you increase and strengthen neural connections inside your brain, a process known as neuroplasticity.

 What can you do to stimulate your brain?

 Social engagement, crossword puzzles, completing challenging tasks, trying brain games or anything new, doing something differently, all stimulate your brain. You can even try brushing your teeth or eating with the opposite hand.

Just like the rest of your body, your brain needs your attention to keep it performing well throughout your whole life.

Shaklee’s new MindWorks comes with a free delivery of mind bending exercises from Cognifit.  If you really want to stretch your brain muscles, try it.  Or the popular Lumosity which I have been playing around with for a couple months.  I’ve been thinking about learning Swedish so I can read a book about the Swede Finns who came to this country around 1900, including my great grandfather, great uncles and my grandparents, all of whom are mentioned and pictured in this book.  It is frustrating to not be able to read Swedish.  Shall I try it and exercise my brain?

Use the comment section to tell me what your favorite brain exercises are.

Be well,

Dr. Jamie

Jamie McManus, M.D., FAAFP

Chair of Medical Affairs, Health Science, & Education

 Be well, Do well and Keep Moving,


206 933 1889

www.HiHOHealth.com   for shopping

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