How Walking Helps Intelligence
It isn’t news that exercise has many health benefits for your body and your mind. But a new study suggests that just 40 minutes of walking at a moderate speed for three times a week can enhance intelligence.
Your Brain is Like a CircuitVery little is done in one area of the brain. Instead, the brain acts like a circuit. As we age, the connections in the brain decrease and the circuit does not work as well as it once did. Researchers wanted to see what happens when fitness is added into the mix, and how this affects the circuits that decline with age.
Better Brain Circuit ConnectionsResearchers believe that walking enhances the connections between brain circuits. This means that the age-related cognitive decline that occurs can be buffered to some extent. It may also mean improved performance on brain tasks that require reasoning.
Testing Intelligence TheoriesTo investigate their theory, researchers recruited participants aged 18 to 35 and 59 to 80 years old who led sedentary lifestyles prior to the study. Participants had participated in physical activity for a minimum of thirty minutes two times over the previous six months. The study used functional magnetic resonance imaging to look at whether aerobic activity increased connectivity in brain networks.
Participants took part in either a walking programme for 40 minutes at a frequency of three times a week or just stretching and toning exercises. Researchers measured the participants’ brain connectivity and their performance on cognitive tests at the start of the study, then again six months later. They also did a final measurement one year after the start of the study.
Higher Cognitive PerformanceAfter one year, the participants who participated in the walking programme showed increased network connectivity in the brain. The parts of the brain that help in performing complicated tasks and cognition were significantly better.
Better Performance from Walking than Stretching ExercisesOn the other hand, those participants who did the toning and stretching exercises did not show these same benefits to the brain connections and cognitive tasks. The walkers consistently outperformed the other group.