The benefits of walking are probably more than just helping to remain fit and healthy. Known to reduce risk of disability in the elderly population, it also lowers chances of developing cancer in men. Well, here is another article which enlightens its benefits to the brain. According to a recent study, walking at least six miles per week protects brain size and preserves memory in old age.

The study was initiated on 299 individuals who did not show any signs of dementia. During the study, participants had to record the number of blocks walked each week. Nine years later brain scans were taken in order to measure brain size of the subjects. Having completed four more years, authors conducted a test for ascertaining the presence of cognitive impairment or dementia. It was concluded that people walking at least 72 blocks a week, or six to nine miles may have greater gray matter volume than people who didn’t walk that much. The results were measured at the nine-year time point after recording activity.

Kirk I. Erickson, PhD, with the University of Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh and the study author explained, “Brain size shrinks in late adulthood, which can cause memory problems. Our results should encourage well-designed trials of physical exercise in older adults as a promising approach for preventing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.”

Gray matter volume did not seem to boost any further in those walking more than 72 blocks. After four years, 116 volunteers comprising 40 percent were apparently diagnosed with either cognitive impairment or dementia. Walking possibly lowers chances of developing memory problems. Experts presume that while regular exercise enhances brain health in midlife, thinking and memory is improved in later life.

The study was published in the October 13, 2010, online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.