Lacing up the your water resistant walking boots
and heading outdoors for a 40-minute stroll, just three times a week, may play an important role in boosting memory and staving off mental decline in older people, US researchers say.
Professor Kirk Erickson and a team from the University of Pittsburgh found that regular exercise increased the size of the hippocampus, an area of the brain that makes memories.
The scientists split a group of 120 people without dementia into two groups. Half walked for 40 minutes three times a week, while the others just did stretching exercises.
It was found that among the people who did regular exercise, the hippocampus volume increased by around two per cent. But for the people who did only stretching exercises, the region decreased in volume by 1.4 per cent.
Commenting on the research, Dr Simon Ridley, head of research at the Alzheimer's Research Trust, said: "Although this study doesn't look at memory loss in Alzheimer's or dementia, it suggests it's never too late to start exercising to help keep our brains healthy.
"Even modest exercise may improve memory and help protect the brain from normal decline caused by ageing."
The year-long trial was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.
This month, UK walking charity the Ramblers said walking was "especially good" for older people as it can help reduce the risk of osteoarthritis and cut diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
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