We’ve all had those sudden realizations that we’re getting older: We’re chatting with a friend, and suddenly we can’t remember the name of her kids or the street she lived on. “Oh crap, Im losing my mind,” is far more scary than realizing that you’ve put on five pounds. As many of us in our 30s and 40s well know, you don’t have to be elderly to experience these sometimes embarrassing and disconcerting moments. We can chalk it up to stress, sleeplessness, distraction, and now researchers say, a lack of something as simple as walking.
The New York Times reported on three new studies pointing to the mind-enhancing benefits of exercise. And by exercise, they don’t necessarily mean you have to be a marathon runner or Ironman triathlete. Things like “walking around the block, cooking, gardening, cleaning and that sort of thing,” were said to have measurable improvements in cognitive abilities. In one of those studies, walking had bought women five extra years of “better brainpower.”
Study author, Dr. Laura Middleton, an associate professor at the University of Waterloo in Ontario explains:
Our results indicate that vigorous exercise isn’t necessary. I think that’s exciting. It might inspire people who would be intimidated about the idea of quote-unquote exercising to just get up and move.
For those of us who aren’t exactly motivated by gardening and cleaning as exercise, another study showed that lifting light weights (something we should be doing anyway to ward off osteoporosis) can change how women think and how blood flows within our brains. In fact, portions of the brain that control mental processing were considerably more active in weight trainers.
All of this is a good incentive to keep getting up early and heading to the gym. It may just help us finally remember where we put the damn car keys.