Movement studies: Hiking can significantly improve brain functions

Movement studies: Hiking can significantly improve brain functions

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Doctors are studying the effects of regular hiking on our brain activity
Researchers found that moderate intensity hiking can reduce symptoms of mild cognitive impairment. For example, this could help people with so-called vascular dementia to reduce the negative effects of their disease. The findings have been presented recently.

The University of British Columbia and University of Iowa researchers found that regular walking can reduce cognitive impairment caused by poor blood vessel health in our brains. The doctors published the results of their study in the journal "British Journal of Sports Medicine".

Regular walking improved reaction times and general brain function
When the participants in the study with vascular cognitive impairment, also known as vascular dementia, walked three hours a week over a period of six months, the reaction times and general brain function improved, the experts explain.

Vascular cognitive impairment is triggered by damage to blood vessels
Vascular cognitive impairment refers to slightly impaired thinking or advanced dementia. The disease is triggered by damage to blood vessels, which can also cause symptoms such as heart disease elsewhere in the human body. Such damage is the second leading cause of dementia after Alzheimer's disease, the scientists say.

Compromised blood flow to the brain seems to be the trigger of the problems
It is already known that regular aerobic exercises improve cardiovascular health and so-called cerebrovascular health, says the author Teresa Liu-Ambrose. In particular, exercise reduces the risk of developing chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes (type II) and high cholesterol. Such diseases have a negative impact on the brain. Compromised blood flow to the brain is probably the trigger, adds Liu-Ambrose of the University of British Columbia.

The human brain needs to be adequately supplied with blood
The brain is a highly metabolic organ and in order to keep it healthy, it requires good blood flow that supplies the necessary nutrients and oxygen to the tissues of the brain. It is also worth noting that in our study, reduced blood pressure was also associated with improved cognitive function, says the researcher. The brain can promote movement and exercise by increasing the so-called growth factors.

Group of subjects had to walk three hours a week for six months
For their study, the doctors examined 38 older adults with mild vascular cognitive impairment. The subjects were divided into two different groups. One group followed an aerobic training program, which consisted of three one-hour walking courses per week for a period of six months, the doctors say. The other group simply continued with their usual care. Both groups were also informed about vascular cognitive impairment and received tips for a healthier diet, the researchers add.

Hiking led to significant improvements in cognitive response times
Before the training program began and at the end of the six months, all participants underwent functional MRI brain scans and tests of neuronal activity and cognitive skills. People from the hiking group showed significant improvements in their response times in the cognitive tests. In addition, they showed changes in their brain activity, which more closely resembled that of healthy brains. The comparison group showed no particular changes.

Hiking promotes cognitive health in older adults
Overall, adequate exercise and hiking appear to be a promising strategy to promote cognitive health in older adults, said author Liu-Ambrose. However, more research is needed to better understand the cause of the benefits. (as)

Author and source information

Video: The Aging but Resilient Brain: Keeping Neurons Happy (May 2022).


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