It’s well known that walking has beneficial effects on the body in general. However, researchers at New Mexico Highlands University (HMHU) explain specific ways that walking can benefit the brain.
The research, presented during the APS annual meeting at Experimental Biology 2017 suggests 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.
In a previous study, the NMHU research team and others suggest 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, notes a media release from Experimental Biology 2017.
In their most recent study, the researchers used noninvasive ultrasound to measure internal carotid artery blood velocity waves and arterial diameters to calculate hemispheric CBF to both sides of the brain of 12 healthy young adults during standing upright rest and steady walking (1 meter/second).
The researchers found that though there is lighter foot impact associated with walking compared with running, walking still produces larger pressure waves in the body that significantly increase blood flow to the brain. While the effects of walking on CBF were less dramatic than those caused by running, they were greater than the effects seen during cycling, which involves no foot impact at all, the release explains.
“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,” the researchers write, per the release. “There is a continuum of hemodynamic effects on human brain blood flow within pedaling, walking and running. Speculatively, these activities may optimize brain perfusion, function, and overall sense of wellbeing during exercise.”
“What is surprising is that it took so long for us to finally measure these obvious hydraulic effects on cerebral blood flow,” first author Ernest Greene explains. “There is an optimizing rhythm between brain blood flow and ambulating. Stride rates and their foot impacts are within the range of our normal heart rates (about 120/minute) when we are briskly moving along.”
[Source: Experimental Biology 2017]