Monday, September 13, 2010

Who Knew?

Walking is good for you. 

Beyond the snarkiness, it is a good article and important research. I’m sure there are many worse ways to spend research dollars. SDI, anyone?

Research shows that walking can actually boost the connectivity within brain circuits, which tends to diminish as the grey hairs multiply.

"Patterns of connectivity decrease as we get older," said Dr. Arthur F. Kramer, who led the study team at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

I’ve been sans automobile for going on two years and can say that part of that connectivity building is just trying to remember the bus schedules.

"The aerobic group also improved in memory, attention and a variety of other cognitive processes," Kramer said. "As the older people in the walking group became more fit, the coherence among different regions in the networks increased and became similar to those of the 20-yr olds," Kramer explained.

And here I was attributing these improvements to the tai chi. But, I do hope this is so, as I hope to be trying to assimilate to a new culture and language soon and will likely need all the cognition I can muster.

The findings come as no surprise to Dr. Lynn Millar, an expert with the American College of Sports Medicine. She said while walking might seem like a simple activity, the brain is actually working to integrate information from many different sources.

"When we walk we integrate visual input, auditory input, as well as input that's coming from joints and muscles regarding where the foot is, how much force, and things like that " said Millar, a professor of Physical Therapy at Andrews University, in Berrien Springs, Michigan.

I’m usually just trying to keep from being run over, as Queensbury is not the most pedestrian friendly town. I do have new sidewalks between apartment and work, though. Occasionally during the winter they remove the snow from them as well.

"It's that old concept: if you don't use it you lose it," she said. "In order for something to be beneficial we need to do it repetitively, and walking is a repetitive activity."

Millar, author of "Action Plan for Arthritis," said while some changes are inevitable with age, they don't have to happen as quickly as they do in some people.

This was a big motivator for me. I had blood clots in the summer 2008 and have had arthritis in my left knee and hip for five years or so. Walking was said to be good for both and, of course, I’m a cheap bastard and could save money. But, I think if you keep doing something then you keep being able to do it and I want to be able to keep walking. The Lord helps those who help themselves.

A pedometer helps quantify things. Otherwise, I think it’s likely to exaggerate how far you think you walked. This is mine and it’s fairly cheap. And this is a really cool site to record steps on, even if they are a day ahead of me.

Don’t click the video unless you like cheesy 80’s music as much as I do: