Walking is a super-power

You have a super-power and you probably don’t even realise it.

The health of our brains is intricately linked to how much we move. Our brains are described as motor-centric, that means the brain has evolved to support movement so it logically follows that; if we don’t move our brains will suffer.

A study was conducted in 2018 where the activity levels of participants and their personality traits were tracked over two decades. Yes, 20 years is a long time but “Our sensory systems work at their best when they’re moving about the world,” says O’Mara. He cites a 2018 study that tracked participants’ activity levels and personality traits over 20 years and found that those who moved the least had the most negative personality changes and were less open and agreeable. The data also revealed that the participants who walked regularly had less depression across the board. Other key findings were that physical activity may be the best way to stimulate creativity; and not the creativity of great 20th century artists like Van Gogh but rather the creativity needed for problem-solving. This may be because walking draws on a host of neural resources which are fired up with activity. Walking sets a rhythm in motion which doesn’t occur when you’re sedentary- when we walk our senses wake up, they’re heightened and the way that brain and body work in sync changes.

Part of the symphony here are the theta brainwaves – the brainwaves experienced during meditation and in those euphoric moments experienced on the precipice of sleep. In other words, these sorts of brainwaves don’t and can’t just happen; they occur due to a confluence of things, some of which seem beyond our control. The real value of theta brainwaves is that they are the gateway to learning and memory. And some of the science says that when observing brain activity during physical movement, theta waves are seen all over the brain. Aerobic activity also causes brain-feeding molecules to proliferate which aids in growing synapses which form when we learn, no matter our age. Furthermore, this brain fertilizer helps us to build better resilience when it comes to ageing and damage caused by trauma and infections. And this happens as a result of engaging in aerobic activity like walking.

Many people out there don’t consider walking to be real exercise but rather a passive pursuit to pass time, but that is not the case at all, walking is a valid and highly beneficial form of exercise. Humans, in general, need to be generally more active and walking is a simple way to do this and it is easy to make it part of your everyday life. One last pro-tip advises, that to get the most out of walking, you need to engage 4 to 5 times a week, at a reasonable speed of over 5km/h for at least 30 minutes.