Walk to Remember

With age comes wisdom, but so does memory loss. No matter how much wisdom is floating around in that brain of yours, it won’t do you a bit of good if you can’t remember any of it. Now, I am a middle-aged female and from the sounds of it, I need to be taking preventative measures to make sure that when whats left of my brain gets around to whats left to be gotten, let’s hope that whats left to be gotten will be happy to get whatever it is I’ve got left!

Well, new studies in older adults are showing that brisk walking can increase the size of a brain region involved in memory formation. These findings suggest that physical exercise can help protect the brain as we age. The hippocampus region of the brain, located in the medial temporal lobe, is critical for the formation of new autobiographical and fact memories. It basically functions as a memory “gateway” through which new memories must pass before entering permanent storage in the brain. So it’s the gate keeper, and I can tell you from experience that it’s not that selective on which memories it allows your brain to permanently retain. There are many memories that I would have preferred to have been filed in the trash; like the time I drove my parents Toyota Cressida into a cornfield. Which then brings up another memory of my Dad wanting to send me to boarding school. That might have had some relation to how much it cost to fix the car, or it could have been the fact that that was my second accident with the same car.

Anyway, unfortunately the hippocampus typically gets smaller once people hit their mid-50s leading to memory loss, or a condition commonly referred as CRS [Can’t Remember Shit]. Okay, so I made that last part up, but it’s always nice to find humor in facts that aren’t so happy, don’t you think? So, it seems that along with losing a few inches in height, shrinking of the hippocampus is part of the normal aging process too. Problem is, although you may now be shopping in the petite section during your golden years, this shrinkage can contribute to forgetfulness, memory loss and an increased risk of dementia. I suppose the good news is you won’t remember how tall you used to be! Studies in older adults have shown that three 40-minute brisk walks a week have been found to help increase the size of the hippocampus and improve cognitive ability. However, it is unclear how exercise might affect people who already have some hippocampus deterioration as a result of aging. By no means should this last little bit information deter you from lacing up your sneakers and hitting the pavement. The body is an amazing vehicle and inactive older adults may be able to stop or reverse age-related hippocampus atrophy in just one year of moderate aerobic activity. So if you can recall where you left your sneakers, why not put one foot in front of the other and take a walk to remember.

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