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Health & Families

Walking can save your memory

New research reveals that walking just 9.5 kilometers (six miles a week) may keep your brain sharper as you get older.

Research published in the October 13 online issue of Neurology suggests that walking may protect aging brains from growing smaller and, in turn, preserve memory in old age.

"Brain size shrinks in late adulthood, which can cause memory problems," study author Kirk Erickson of the University of Pittsburgh said in a news release. "Our results should encourage well-designed trials of physical exercise in older adults as a promising approach for preventing dementia and Alzheimer's disease."

For the study, the team asked 299 dementia-free seniors to record the number of blocks they walked each week. After nine years passed, scientists scanned the participants' brains to measure size. Four years later, the participants were tested to see if they had developed signs of dementia.

At the nine-year checkpoint, those people who walked at least 72 blocks per week, around 9.5 kilometers, had more gray matter volume than those who didn't walk as much. Four years later, researchers discovered subjects who walked the most had cut their risk of developing memory problems by 50 percent.

This is not the first study to promote the benefits of walking in seniors. For example, last spring, Harvard University found that women who walked regularly at a brisk pace had an almost 40 percent lower risk of stroke.

Interested in beginning a walking program? Check out http://www.thewalkingsite.com for tips.