Walking Your Way to Health
Yes, it’s still a little chilly and we’re still navigating our way through a pandemic. If you’ve been less active than normal or your fitness watch is stuffed in a drawer or in an unused gym bag; you’re not alone, but it’s time to get it back out!
When stressors are high or our anxiety is building, moving our bodies is a great way to boost our neurotransmitters that can help us feel better. Not only can it help improve our mood, it gets our blood circulating and can have preventative effects for a number of diseases.
Walking is one of the easiest, low-impact, and inexpensive ways to benefit your overall health and you may not need as much of it as you think. In fact, you might be surprised to know, the often-advertised 10’000 steps originated from a foreign marketing campaign in 1964 for a pedometer versus evidence from research results.
Overall Health: A recent study found that women, with a mean age of 72, who averaged 4400 steps per day, had significantly lower mortality rates when compared to 2700 steps. As the amount of steps increased, the mortality rates progressively decreased until it plateaued around 7500 steps. The authors do acknowledge limitations to their study, such as potential pre-existing health conditions and socio-economic factors. The important take away is that more steps are better, but it’s ok to be under 10’000 steps a day.
Cognitive Health: In 2019, Rabin et al., concluded that interventions targeting physical activity may delay the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease. Their research found that participants who had a greater baseline of physical activity had lower beta amyloid-related cognitive decline and gray matter volume loss. In another study, neuroscientists at Oregon Health & Science University conducted a research on mice that showed exciting potential with short bursts of exercise, the equivalent of 4000 human steps. These results provided the first evidence for an activity-dependent gene that is linked to supporting brain plasticity, learning and memory in the hippocampus.
During a time where you may not be able to meet with friends, go to the gym, or afford home fitness equipment, remember that walking can support your cognitive health, strengthen your muscles, improve balance, circulation and sleep, and boost your immune system. Setting specific targets can be beneficial when aiming for a particular health goal. Whether it’s shorter bursts of 10-15 minutes of activity, going for a 20 – 40 minute walk, or simply moving around your home, remember: Some steps are good, more is better, and some is still better than none!
What has motivated you to stay active during the pandemic? Let us know below.
Dr. Romi Fung, ND, M.Sc and Alaina King, M.Sc
Dr. Romi Fung, ND, M.Sc is a Naturopathic Physician practicing in Richmond, BC with clinical interests in working with patients living with dementia. Dr. Romi has completed additional training in the Bredesen Protocol for treating cognitive impairment, as well as graduate studies in Aging and Health. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D in Aging and Health from Queen's University and is an Adjunct Clinic Faculty at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine - Boucher Campus. Alaina has a MSc in Aging & Health and is the owner of Grey Matters Tx. A registered professional Recreation Therapist and Certified Dementia Practitioner, Alaina has been working with older adults with dementia since 1998. In addition to Recreation Therapy, Alaina has worked in Community Patient Care Coordination and as a Staff Educator and Health & Safety Auditor in Long Term Care.
Medical Disclaimer: This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never disregard professional medical advice, or delay in seeking it, because of something you have read on this post.
Chatzi, C., et al. (2019). Exercise-induced Enhancement of Synaptic Function Triggered by the Inverse BAR protein, Mtss1L. eLife, 8. DOI: 10.7554/eLife.45920.
Lee, I-M., et al. (2019). Association of Step Volume and Intensity With All-Cause Mortality in Older Women. JAMA Internal Medicine, 179(8), 1105-1112. DOI: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2019.0899
Rabin, J. S., et al. (2019). Associations of Physical Activity and B-Amyloid With Longitudinal Cognition and Neurodegeneration in Clinically Normal Older Adults. JAMA Neurology, 76(10), 1203-1210. DOI: 10.1001/jamaneurol.2019.1879