As I cross the middle of middle age, I have begun dreading the process of ageing. I have started developing a few health problems with a suddenness that surprised me. I have been diagnosed, for instance, with the onset of arthritis in my right knee. I was perfectly healthy until a few months ago. The doctor has asked me not to continue with my yoga practice until the pain in my knee subsides. So I have taken to walking. And guess what? A health news story on the benefits of this activity has delighted me, taking away the despair that was beginning to take shape in my mind. The report is based on a new study, where the subjects were much older than I am; nevertheless, it fills me with hope that I can delay the process of ageing and decline of cognitive abilities with my walking regimen.
Getting your heart to work with something as simple as walking or cycling just three times a week seems to improve thinking skills, the research says. Add a heart-healthy diet, and you maximize the benefits, possibly reversing functional age, according to the study published on Dec 19 in the journal Neurology.
"Our operating model was that by improving cardiovascular risk, you're also improving neurocognitive functioning," said lead study author James Blumenthal, a clinical psychologist at Duke University. "You're improving brain health at the same time as improving heart health."
Many experts "are already convinced about the benefits of lifestyle interventions to reduce risk of Alzheimer's and cardiovascular dementia," said Dr. Richard Isaacson, director of the Alzheimer's Prevention Clinic at Weill Cornell Medicine. "But for those who are not, this study is a randomized, clinical trial that illustrates the benefits.
"You can do something today for a better brain tomorrow," said Isaacson, who was not involved in the research.
The only cognitive ability walking didn’t improve was memory. Oh, no! My memory is like a sieve. I wish walking improved the one ability I want to improve the most.