Walk for your weight, wander for your mind.
Daily outdoor physical activity works wonders for your brain. It’s true. In his well-known book Spark, John Ratey writes, “Getting old is unavoidable but falling apart is not.” There is an intricate connection between physical and mental health. Mental health will decline rapidly without physical activity. For your mental health alone, you must move everyday – especially as you get older – all year round.
It’s natural for our cells to die and our nerve fibres and dendrites to shrink. The problem is that when old cells die (apoptosis), their presence throughout the body triggers the immune system. The immune system responds by igniting an inflammatory response. Inflammation manifests as swelling – pressing on arteries and nerves, causing blockages, restrictions, and delaying nervous system responses.
This is why walking outdoors, even in the cold of winter, is preventative medicine.
Walking in nature boosts blood flow and increases the number and strength of capillaries throughout the body – and most importantly, in the brain. It also strengthens your immune system and rids excess body fat and accumulation.
As you walk, the mind grows calm and alert, continually sharpening the nervous system as it receives and responds to messages from the body and environment.
This is a note from a woman I’ve been working with for the past five months. She has created incredible changes in her wellbeing. Aside from altering her eating habits, she began walking an hour a day. While her initial motivation was to improve her physical health, what has transpired alongside the weight loss has been a newfound delight in the daily ritual of a long walk, and the mental benefits it brings – benefits that will be a strong defense against mental decline, as the years go by. Daily physical activity is absolutely essential to preserving and protecting your brain.
This is a note from someone I have worked with who found walking to be a way to not inly lose weight but improve her overall sense of wellbeing.
“I started this journey in June 2014 and decided that this was the last time I was ever going to be overweight. After 5 months of watching what I eat and exercising regularly, I’ve lost 33 lbs and feel much better about life in general. Although there is still quite a journey ahead, I know that by sticking to these healthy habits, and focusing on the objective I will make it there – for good. I try to walk 7 hours a week and work on strength training twice a week. This has made a huge difference in my energy levels. When I can’t do my full hour walk, I feel like I’ve missed something important; not only the physical activity but the time to re-connect with myself.”