Walking and hiking are enormously popular pastimes in Switzerland, and for a good reason. With close to 40,000 miles of well-maintained and cleverly marked walking pathways, there’s always a new and spectacular view to take in. Most Swiss would like to be known as serious ‘hikers’ not ‘walkers,’ but in our opinion, it’s not really necessary to be equipped with hiking sticks and boots to get the benefits of walking.
A part of the brain known as the hippocampus plays an essential part in memory functions. Unfortunately, in older people, the hippocampus has a tendency to shrink as much as 2% each year. However, a series of recent studies have shown that walking at a non-stressful pace for 6 miles per week can counterbalance the shrinkage, and in some cases actually increase the volume of the hippocampus.
In a study that took place at the University of Illinois, a group of people between the ages of 60 and 80 took three walks each week for a year. Each walk ran for 40 minutes. At the end of the year, brain scans showed an increase in brain connectivity, as well as an increase in the ability of the participants to organize thoughts, plan strategies and arrange activities.