The Zoomer Report: Walking and the Hippocampus

Here’s more evidence that walking is good for the brain. Specifically the hippocampus — a part of the brain important to the formation of memories — It usually begins to atrophy around 55 or 60. Now psychologists are suggesting that the hippocampus can be modestly expanded, and memory improved, by nothing more than regular walking.

Researchers randomly assigned 120 healthy but sedentary men and women in their 60s to one of two exercise groups. One group walked around a track three times a week, building up to 40 minutes at a stretch; the other did a variety of less aerobic exercises, including yoga and resistance training.

After a year, brain scans showed that among the walkers, the hippocampus had increased in volume by about 2 pe rcent on average; in the others, it had declined by about 1.4 per cent. Since such a decline is normal in older adults, the researchers say a 2 per cent increase is fairly significant. Both groups also improved on a test of spatial memory, but the walkers improved more.

The researchers were delighted to learn that the hippocampus might expand with exercise — and it didn’t take that much. The study is published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Photo © paul kline

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Libby ZnaimerAbout The Zoomer Report
Libby Znaimer, a prominent Canadian journalist specializing in business, politics, and lifestyle issues, is producer and host of The Zoomer Report, a special feature on topics of interest to baby boomers and the 50+. It covers everything from health and wealth to leisure and volunteerism, from the special vantage point of the generation that has changed society in its wake.

Ms. Znaimer is also Vice-President of News and Information for Classical 96.3FM and AM740. Her first book, “In Cancerland – Living Well Is The Best Revenge” – was published in October 2007 by Key Porter.

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