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Walking is Key in How to Stay Young

A recent two-part BBC documentary explored the latest scientific research into how to stay young in both body and mind. Episode 2 concentrated particularly on helping the brain to stay young. The findings, statistics and latest advice made a fascinating watch and it revealed good news for walkers!


By age 70, on average people will have lost a fifth of their brain capacity, but as with all things this varies significantly from person to person. Of all the factors that account for these variations, about a quarter are down to genetics, meaning upbringing and lifestyle play the largest part. This is good news, as it means that we can all take steps to help retain our mental capacity as we age.

silver walker 2Exercise is an important factor in maintaining brain health. Exertion generally helps with blood flow to the brain. But is seems that some forms of exercise are particularly good for maintaining brain health. Volunteers were tested on their mental skills such as memory, reaction speed, planning, prioritising and emotional well-being. Half the volunteers were asked to undertake one hour of brisk walking twice per week, whilst the other half were asked to undertake one hour of table tennis twice per week. The walkers showed the most significant improvement in terms of cognition (thinking skills) and in the number of neurons (leading to a boost of memory and ability to learn), whilst those that learnt the new skill of table tennis showed the most significant improvement in terms of the cortex or grey matter (responsible for complex thinking). In terms of emotional well-being, both groups improved but the sociable aspect of table tennis created a more significant impact. The conclusion… if you can fit in regular walking alongside a sociable class where you learn a new skill (perhaps dance, art or music), you will see the best balance of improvements.

Other important factors for supporting brain function in older people identified by the programme included living in a culture with respect for elders, diet (particularly the inclusion of purple sweet potato, blackcurrants, blueberries and aubergine - high in anthocyanins which supports blood vessels), counteracting stress, learning new skills (particularly a new language), education and mental challenge.

So walking is not just about helping your well-being in the here and now, it is also an excellent way of protecting your metal well-being for the future. So what are you waiting for…walking boots at the ready!

25 April 2016

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Wednesday, 21 March 2018
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The length of our walking guides is given in miles and rounded to the nearest full mile (whole number) for simplicity. For short walks (of less than 2 miles) or walks that have a length that ends in .5, a more accurate walk length may be given in the first section of the walk introduction. For example, the Length in the header may be listed as 6 miles, and the introduction may confirm that the exact length of the walk is 5.5 miles. The walk length is calculated from the GPS file that was created by the walk author GPS tracking the walk whilst walking, using the iFootpath App GPS Tracker, meaning it is very accurate. Our bespoke tracker is particularly detailed and plots a walkers position about every 10 seconds. The tracker is calibrated to match two other reputable map and walking sources, Ordnance Survey and Nike. As with all standardised walk and map lengths, the distance does not take account of hills and slopes, just the distance you would measure using a piece of string on a flat map version of the terrain, so hilly walks will feel longer than stated. If you track the route using another GPS App or Tracker App or Fitness Device, you can expect the distance you record to be different due to different calibrations. This is particularly true of those Apps and devices that count your motion and steps – these can only guess the distance you have travelled with each step and so are much less accurate.

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The grade of a walk is an indicator of how difficult the terrain is that you will encounter along the way. This does not take into account the walk length but does suggest how challenging the walk will be. It takes into account things like hills, path surfaces and obstacles (like stiles, gates, steps and rock scrambles). An easy walk, graded as 1 (and shown as 1 Boot) indicates a walk that is essentially flat, has no sharp hills to climb, has no stiles, is easy to navigate (probably along a well-worn path) and is suitable for most levels of fitness. A difficult walk, graded as 5 (and represented by 5 Boots) indicates a walk that is strenuous and involves steep ascents and/or descents. It may be technically challenging involving difficult terrain or obstacles that require scrambling with your hands. Please note that the grading for walks is subjective and open to interpretation and should only be used as a guide when selecting a walk.

NOTE: Do be aware that the level of stamina required for any walk will vary depending on both the walk length and the difficulty grade - you should only walk within your limits.

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