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Worried about memory loss? Take a walk

Regular walking improves memory by increasing hippocampus size in aging adults's brains, according to a recently published study.

 

For most older adults, memory loss begins to creep in around 55 or 60, when the brain’s hippocampus begins to atrophy. But according to a recently published study, regular walking may not only stem this mental decline—it even appears to modestly reverse it.

Part of a group of 120 healthy but sedentary seniors (in their mid-60s) walked around a track thrice weekly, working up to 40 minutes. The other seniors did less aerobic exercise, including yoga and resistance training.

When a year had passed, the hippocampus had actually grown an average of 2 percent among the walkers, while it shrank about 1.4 percent among the other group.

Because the hippocampus is expected to decline at this age, lead author Kirk Erickson, a psychologist at the University of Pittsburgh called the increase “significant.” The walkers also improved more on spatial memory tests.

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