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Walk 20 minutes daily to boost your brain power

We all know that exercise is important for our bodies – it strengthens our muscles, boosts our cardiovascular health, and helps maintain a healthy weight. However, a simple 20-minute walk can do wonders for your brain, too. There’s compelling science behind the idea that walking offers a unique power boost to our cognitive abilities.

How does walking supercharge the brain?

Studies have demonstrated that a brisk 20-minute walk significantly increases brain activity compared to sitting still. This heightened activity translates to better focus and improved performance on cognitive tasks. What’s more, this brain boost can last for up to 30 minutes after you finish your stroll.

Research from Stanford University indicates that walking can foster “divergent thinking,” the kind involved in generating creative ideas. Participants consistently came up with more innovative solutions when walking compared to when seated.

Moreover, exercise, and walking in particular, can stimulate growth in brain areas responsible for coordination. This could have long-term benefits in reducing fall risk, especially as we age.

Advantages of walking for brain and overall health

While all forms of exercise support brain health, walking offers some unique advantages:


Unlike running or other high-impact activities, walking puts minimal stress on your knees, hips, and ankles. This makes it a great option for people of all fitness levels, including those starting an exercise routine or managing joint conditions like arthritis.

Convenience factor

You don’t need to sign up for a gym or buy workout gear to reap the benefits of walking. All you need is a comfortable pair of shoes and a safe place to stroll. This accessibility makes it easy to fit walking into your daily routine, whether it’s a quick walk around the neighborhood or a longer trek on a local trail.

Blood sugar management

Research indicates that taking a short walk after a meal (ideally within an hour) can help your body regulate blood sugar levels. This is especially important for individuals at risk of or managing type 2 diabetes. Even short “mini-walks” lasting just a few minutes can offer benefits.

Putting walking into practice

Ready to make walking part of your brain-boosting strategy? Here’s how to get the most out of it:

Aim for consistency: Establish a routine

The cornerstone of any effective exercise plan, including walking for brain health, is consistency. Health authorities recommend adults engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. This can include activities such as brisk walking. To make this recommendation more manageable:

  • Divide your exercise into daily chunks: Instead of overwhelming yourself with long sessions, spread your walking across the week. For example, a daily 30-minute walk five days a week easily meets the 150-minute guideline.
  • Incorporate walking into your daily habits: Consider walking during your lunch break, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or parking farther away from entrances to naturally include more steps in your day.
  • Set specific times for walking: Having a set time each day for your walk can help turn this activity into a regular habit. This regularity not only contributes to physical health but also provides mental clarity and a break from daily stressors.

Step up the walking pace: Optimize intensity for brain health

While any walking is better than none, the intensity of your walk can significantly influence its brain-boosting effects. A moderate-intensity walk is ideal for enhancing cognitive function and overall mental health. To achieve a moderate intensity:

  • Monitor the heart rate: Aim for 50-70% of your maximum heart rate, which increases circulation and oxygen to the brain. You can use a simple formula to estimate your maximum heart rate: subtract your age from 220.
  • Check your breathing: Your walk should be brisk enough that you can talk but not sing. This level of effort indicates that you’re walking at a moderate pace, which is effective for improving brain function.
  • Use technology to stay on track: Consider using a fitness tracker or a smartphone app to monitor your pace and heart rate. These tools can help ensure you’re maintaining the right intensity to maximize the cognitive benefits of walking.

If you’re looking for a simple, effective way to enhance your mental sharpness, reduce stress, and potentially even ward off cognitive decline, walking might be your secret weapon.

So, the next time you need a creativity boost or feel mentally sluggish, consider swapping your desk chair for a walk around the block – your brain will thank you.

The study is published in the journal APA PsycNet.


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