How Walking Helps the Brain

· December 20, 2015
The title of this article might have surprised you. Can the simple habit of walking make our brain be more creative and make us feel happier? Indeed, it can. And it isn’t just us stating so, the majority of doctors and neurologists agree, too.

One of these experts is, for example, the neurologist Jose Angel Obeso, director of the Centro Integral en Neurociencias (Comprehensive Neuroscience Center) in Madrid, Spain. His daily work in the hospital and his contact with people suffering from depression, helped him to see how therapeutic it is to prescribe “an hour of walking a day” – and in a natural setting if possible.

As you already know, depression, or even extended periods of high stress and anxiety, can cause a deficit in basic cognitive processes in our brain, such as memory, comprehension, creativity, etc. If we walk every day, all these processes will become noticeably better.

Now then you have no excuses. After reading this article we are sure that you will put this effective and therapeutic remedy into practice: So go for a walk!

The “automated brain” and unhappiness


There is another really interesting aspect that we should keep in mind. There are habits which, without us realizing it, make our brain end up “automated,” and, therefore, stressed. Do not forget these aspects:

  • The greatest enemy of the brain is routine. The simple act of doing the same things every day makes us fall into a type of depression and an inevitable discouragement. Little by little, our brain works a little bit slower. Our attention is not the same as before because, in reality, we have no new stimulus on which to focus. We may have some memory lapses because so few things are interesting to us now. Due to low motivation, the memory is less active.
  • Routine lowers our enthusiasm and discouragement, as a consequence, notably affects the brain, due to fewer neural connections, fewer synapsis…
  • Day after day our brain begins to act in an automated manner. There are no longer moments to enjoy and to be creative, and the brain is governed by established guidelines, as would function, for example, a computer which we have previously programmed. This is a great risk to our emotional health and also to our physical health.

According to Dr. Jose Angel Obeso, automated brains occur particularly in large cities. With those individuals that usually just spend time dealing with their own emotional needs, who live in large cities surrounded by pollution and very high levels of stress.

Walking, an act of personal freedom


“Walkers have no obligations, only the simple pleasure of freeing themselves step by step during their walking.” According to Dr. Jose Angel Obeso, the benefits are not noted on the first day, but after at least a week when walking has become a habit in our lives. It is then that we begin to notice these therapeutic results:

  • While walking, the brain does not need to worry about anything else. Walking is easy, anyone can do it and further you will receive an extra dose of oxygen and because of the pure air of nature, you will feel even better. It is in this moment when you begin to stimulate your frontal lobe, which is associated with creativity and state of mind. If you add to this the natural release of endorphins, it is then when the magic appears. The brain feels more euphoric and optimistic.
  • With an improved state of mind comes an increase in creativity. There is no pressure, the hormone cortisol, which is secreted during times of stress, disappears and these walls which make us negative are broken down. This is the moment when we see things from another angle. We become more relaxed, more enthusiastic, more confident.
  • As people we are used to moving around in small spaces: our home, our workplace, the restaurants we visit, the supermarkets… These are limited spaces, always full of other people. Places which we know often make us more tense. However, the simple fact of going for a walk in a natural, open space becomes a marvelous act of freedom and expansion.
  • According to Dr. Jose Angel Obeso, we should look for, above all, some contact with nature. It is like returning to our mother’s womb, to our beginning. It is not a spiritual act but, rather, an organic necessity. If we walk in the city we continue breathing much of the contamination. It is better for our lungs to be filled with pure oxygen, and it is also necessary that our eyes see new scenery, new stimulus which can enrich our brain.

With this article we invite you, once more, to become motivated to walk every day, for at least a half hour. Go to the park, to the mountains, to the beach. You will see, in just a few weeks, that your physical and emotional health have improved. Walking is, without a doubt, much better than a painkiller or some vitamins!