Walking is good for your mind

“To help your mind, move your feet!”

That’s the headline on a New York Times article that says brisk walking improves brain health and thinking in aging people with memory impairments.

The article cites a new study in which middle-aged and older people with early signs of memory loss raised their cognitive scores after they started walking frequently.

“Regular exercise also amplified the healthy flow of blood to their brains,” the article notes. “The changes in their brains and minds were subtle but consequential, the study concludes, and could have implications not just for those with serious memory problems, but for any of us whose memories are starting to fade with age.”

Rong Zhang, a neurology professor at UT Southwestern Medical Center, who oversaw the new study, believes the findings serve as a useful reminder that moving changes minds. “Park farther away” when you shop or commute, he says. “Take the stairs,” and try to get your heart rate up when you exercise. Doing so, he says, may help to protect your lifelong ability to remember and think.

Staying healthy after Covid-19

There’s a very helpful article about personal health in a time of pandemic on the website of Entitled “Staying Healthy as the US Begins to Reopen,” the article lists a wealth of suggestions for maintaining and improving both physical and mental health.

“At this stage, it’s too early to tell exactly what an end to quarantine will look like,” the article says. “What’s likely is that we’ll see a phased approach as the country begins to open up. Many social distancing elements will likely still be in place, as we gradually return to some sort of normality. 

“When the country does start to reopen, we will all still need to adhere to many of the guidelines that have been outlined by the CDC over the recent months. So, even when businesses start to open up again, we’ll need to take precautions.”

The tips cover everything from diet to exercise to meditation, and they’re worth checking out even in normal times.

Gotta run!

One of the best ways to stay healthy is to run. The benefits of running are the topic of a recent article in Runners World magazine:

Scientific research proves that regular exercise (150 minutes per week, which is about 30 minutes, five times per week)—and running in particular—has health benefits that extend well beyond any pill a doctor could prescribe, says writer Jennifer Van Allen. She lists these six ways running improves your health:

  1. Running makes you happier. No matter how good or bad you feel at any given moment, exercise will make you feel better. And it goes beyond just the “runner’s high.”
  2. Running helps you lose or maintain weight. You know that exercise burns calories while you are working out. The bonus is that when you exercise, the burn continues after you stop.
  3. Running strengthens your knees (and other joints and bones, too.) Running increases bone mass, and even helps prevent age-related bone loss.
  4. Running will keep you sharper, even as you age. Regular exercise helps defeat age-related mental decline, particularly functions like task switching, selective attention and working memory.
  5. Running reduces your risk of cancer. A vast review of 170 epidemiological studies in the Journal of Nutrition showed that regular exercise is associated with a lower risk of certain cancers.
  6. Running adds years to your life. Even if you meet just the minimum amount of physical activity (30 minutes, 5 times per week), studies show you’ll live longer.

The great thing about running is that you don’t have to buy a lot of expensive equipment. A good pair of running shoes ($70-$100) is about all you need to get started.

(I started running when a neighbor challenged me to run around our block. I couldn’t make it. But the two of us decided to keep at it, and pretty soon I ran a mile, then two, then three. I was hooked and I haven’t stopped for 50+ years. I’ve run 11 marathons and a lot of steps in between. As I write this, I am blessed to have good health. I attribute a lot of this benefit to running. – Lee Callaway)

If running just isn’t your thing, then walk!

Rebooting yourself isn’t going to do you much good if you don’t stay healthy. This is particularly true right now while we are in the midst of the Coronavirus-Covid-19 pandemic. For those of us confined to home, there’s good news from a large-scale study of moving and mortality.

The news is that an extra 4,000 steps a day could reduce your risk of dying prematurely, even if they are just around your living room. Researchers from the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked at health and activity data from almost 5,000 men and women who had worn step monitors. They found that people who averaged about 8,000 steps a day were only about half as likely to have died from heart disease, cancer or any other cause as people averaging 4,000 steps or fewer. People taking at least 12,000 steps a day were 65% less likely to have died than those in the 4,000-or-less group.

Dr. Charles Matthews, a senior researcher and senior author of the study, said try to move throughout the day, even if slowly or in small snatches and whether or not you can formally exercise.

New York Times, April 7, 2020

Where to learn more

Here are some other resources to tap:

Visit the American Society for Nutrition website for some great information on making health and nutrition a priority during the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. The site has valuable tips for grocery shopping and eating at home, safety suggestions for takeout meals from restaurants, and techniques for maintaining physical and mental health.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website has excellent advice on how to manage and cope with stress and anxiety, including things you can do to support yourself and reduce stress in yourself and others.

The American College of Sports Medicine has a wealth of information for maintaining physical health, including what kind and how much exercise, tools and equipment, overall health and a long list of related resources.

Beyond the pandemic – whenever we get to the “other side” – Try to heed medical experts who agree that getting physical exercise is absolutely critical for staying healthy, avoiding obesity, regulating blood pressure, avoiding heart problems and preventing many other ailments.