Researchers find another reason why walking is good for us

Photo (c) PointImages - Fotolia

Findings show that this basic form of exercise increases blood flow to the brain

At this point, consumers are pretty aware of how good walking is for them. Previous research has connected this basic form of exercise to everything from lowered risk of diabetes and obesity to improvements in the quality of life of cancer patients.

Now, a new study has uncovered yet another way that walking gives our bodies a boost. Researchers from New Mexico Highlands University (NMHU) have found that the act of walking sends pressure waves from the feet through our arteries and can increase the supply of blood to the brain.

This is good news because increased brain blood flow is vital to brain function and can help the brain regulate and heal itself, as well as promote better overall wellbeing.

"New data now strongly suggest that brain blood flow is very dynamic and depends directly on cyclic aortic pressures that interact with retrograde pressure pulses from foot impacts. There is a continuum of hemodynamic effects on human brain blood flow within pedaling, walking and running. Speculatively, these activities may optimize brain perfusion, function, and overall sense of wellbeing during exercise," the researchers said.

Increases blood flow

For the purposes of the study, the research team used non-invasive ultrasound equipment to measure blood flow metrics in 12 healthy young adults. They found that those who kept a pace of 1 meter/second had significantly increased blood flow to the brain.

The researchers say the blood flow to the brain was even higher for participants who were examined while running, but that walking had much greater outcomes when compared to other exercises like cycling, which does not produce any kind of foot impact.

While the study is the first of its kind to yield these kinds of results, the researchers say that the findings make a great deal of sense.

"What is surprising is that it took so long for us to finally measure these obvious hydraulic effects on cerebral blood flow. There is an optimizing rhythm between brain blood flow and ambulating. Stride rates and their foot impacts are within the range of our normal heart rates (about 120/minute) when we are briskly moving along," said first author Ernest Greene.

The full study will be presented at the APS annual meeting at Experimental Biology 2017 in Chicago.

Find a Medical Alert System partner near you.