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Benefits to the brain from walking
June 12, 2017, 11:16 am
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You probably know that walking does your body good, however, new research now shows that it is not just your heart and muscles that benefit, but also your brain.

Researchers at New Mexico Highlands University (NMHU) have found that the foot's impact during walking sends pressure waves through the arteries that significantly modify and can increase the supply of blood to the brain.

Until recently, the blood supply to the brain (cerebral blood flow or CBF) was thought to be involuntarily regulated by the body and relatively unaffected by changes in the blood pressure caused by exercise or exertion. The NMHU research team had earlier found that the foot's impact during running caused significant impact-related retrograde (backward-flowing) waves through the arteries that sync with the heart rate and stride rate to dynamically regulate blood circulation to the brain.

In the current study, the research team used non-invasive ultrasound to measure carotid artery blood velocity waves and arterial diameters to calculate hemispheric CBF to both sides of the brain of healthy young adults during standing upright rest and steady walking (1 meter/second). The researchers found that though there is lighter foot impact associated with walking compared with running, walking still produces large pressure waves in the body that significantly increase blood flow to the brain. While the effects of walking on CBF were less dramatic than those caused by running, they were greater than the effects seen during cycling, which involve no foot impact at all.

"What is surprising is that it took so long for us to finally measure these obvious hydraulic effects on cerebral blood flow," said the study authors. "There is an optimizing rhythm between brain blood flow and ambulating. Stride rates and their foot impacts are within the range of our normal heart rates (about 120/minute) when we are briskly moving along," they added.

 

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