Leading article: Brain gain

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The Independent Online

Travel broadens the mind, it's long been said. Now it's official. Research shows that taking a walk, covering at least six miles a week, literally expands the size of the brain.

If this research encourages even a few people to slide off their sofas and out of doors, that can only be a good thing for a whole host of reasons, not all to do with brain size.

As a nation, we are visibly fatter than we were. We have only to compare and contrast photographs of street scenes taken today with those taken in the 1950s and 1960s to observe the growth in the national waistline. We are none the better for this expansion, with even children suffering from the kind of obesity-related health complications that were almost unknown a generation ago.

Whether this trend towards a stationary existence can be reversed – and the nation made cleverer at the same time – is questionable. Significantly, the report urging us to walk further coincides with news that the nation is expected to spend a record amount of money today shopping on the internet.

As one of the main motivations for going out of doors was always to shop, the statistics bode ill for any drive to get us out and about. A radical solution, of course, would be to ban internet shopping. We walk more – and our minds get sharper. Sounds like a no-brainer.