Walking may beef up the hippocampus, improve memory
By Lisa Bicknell, CV&T Staff Writer
Listening to the radio the other day, a discussion caught my attention. It seems that regular walking can increase the size of the hippocampus. Now what in the world is that, I wondered, and why in the world would we want to increase the size of it? Don’t we typically exercise to shrink our body parts?
A quick search on the Internet informed me that the hippocampus is located deep in the temporal lobe of the brain and helps regulate memory.
Remember way back in biology class when you learned about the part of the brain that is shaped like a sea horse? That is the hippocampus, and as we age it typically loses volume, or shrinks, which can lead to dementia and other memory problems.
Unfortunately, as parts of our brain shrink, our backside tends to spread. It appears that both trends can be slowed with regular exercise, though.
According to The Scientific American, a study revealed that the average volume of the hippocampus increased by about 2 percent for patients between the ages of 55 and 80 who walked 40 minutes at least three times a week.
Apparently it takes more than crossword puzzles and gentle stretching to keep an aging brain nimble. While such activities have their benefits, they alone won’t grow our hippocampuses. Vigorous movement of the large muscles of our bodies is required for that.
Many of us are looking forward to stepping up our exercise program now that the hottest days of summer appear to be past.
For those of us on the backside of forty, it’s heartening to think we can shrink our hips and expand our memory at the same time.