Walk Your Way to Better Brain Function
A small study reported in the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggests a moderate-intensity walking program may help decrease symptoms of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) caused by damaged blood vessels in the brain—a condition called vascular dementia. Study participants who walked three hours per week for six months also showed better brain function.
Vascular dementia is the second most common type of dementia—after Alzheimer’s disease—and results from the same type of blood vessel damage that causes heart disease. Research shows that regular aerobic exercise can improve blood flow throughout the body—including to the brain—and reduce the risk for conditions that can damage blood vessels, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes.
In this recent study, which was conducted at the Aging, Mobility, and Cognitive Neuroscience Lab at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, 38 adults with mild vascular cognitive impairment were assigned to two groups. One group continued with their usual treatment and the other participated in a walking program. At the end of the study period, MRIs and other cognitive tests showed improved brain function in the group that added regular exercise to their treatment.