Walking increases blood flow to the brain

Walking can increase the brains blood supply according to a recent study from New Mexico Highlands which was presented at the American Physiological Society annual meeting in Chicago,

We know from prior studies that exercise can help improve memory and thinking skills

How does exercise improve memory?

According to Harvard Health,

“Exercise helps memory and thinking through both direct and indirect means. The benefits of exercise come directly from its ability to reduce insulin resistance, reduce inflammation, and stimulate the release of growth factors—chemicals in the brain that affect the health of brain cells, the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, and even the abundance and survival of new brain cells.”

“In a study done at the University of British Columbia, researchers found that regular aerobic exercise, the kind that gets your heart and your sweat glands pumping, appears to boost the size of the hippocampus, the brain area involved in verbal memory and learning. Resistance training, balance and muscle toning exercises did not have the same results.” Harvard Health

According to Christopher Bergland from Psychology Today,

“That being said, anecdotal and empirical evidence suggests that the triad of (1) regularly kickstarting any type of physical activity that expends calories throughout the day; (2) social connectedness and being part of a grassroots community; (3) maintaining a “chutzpah mindset” in which you continually nudge against your limits are more likely to increase your odds of having a “super ager” brain as you get older than just sitting at home playing “brain-training” games.”

How Does walking increase blood flow to the brain?

Prior to the New Mexico study, it was unclear how blood flow to the brain increased.

According to the lead researcher, Earnest Greene Ph.D.

“The dynamic effects of walking, running, and cycling – natural whole body movement as in work or physical exercise activities – on human brain blood flow were simply unknown,” Green said. “It was assumed that they were, as in rest, closely controlled and generally held constant.”

The researchers attribute these finding to the degree of foot impaction during exercise.

The researchers found that the foot’s impact during walking sends pressure waves through the arteries that significantly modify and can increase the supply of blood to the brain.

“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,”

With cycling, there is little impact on the foot.

According to the American Physiological Society Press release

“Until recently, the blood supply to the brain (cerebral blood flow or CBF) was thought to be involuntarily regulated by the body and relatively unaffected by changes in the blood pressure caused by exercise or exertion. The NMHU research team and others previously found that the foot’s impact during running (4–5 G-forces) caused significant impact-related retrograde (backward-flowing) waves through the arteries that sync with the heart rate and stride rate to dynamically regulate blood circulation to the brain.”

According to the article, running increased the blood flow to the brain more than walking but walking increased the blood flow more so than cycling.

“Blood flow is not constant and varies significantly with various forms of exercise and movement,” Greene said.

How was blood flow to the brain determined?

The researchers used an ultrasound to measure the blood flow through the internal carotid arteries which supply blood to the brain during both rest and walking.


Another reason to get out and do some exercising, even if it just a walk. Any exercise can be beneficial, it is better than sitting on the couch.

What do you think about walking and the ability to increase the brain’s blood supply?

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