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Walking Improves Mental Health

      Aging couch potatoes are being encouraged to get up and walk after a new study found people over 60 who walked rapidly for 45 minutes three days a week maintained better cognitive functions.

Exercise       "The nice result of our study is that a person who has not been physically active during his or her younger years still can benefit by walking," says researcher Arthur F. Kramer, a University of Illinois psychologist.

      The study, which was funded by the National Institute on Aging, examined the cognitive effects of walking on 124 people ages 60 to 75 who had led sedentary lives.

      Study participants began walking 15 minutes a day three days a week at 17.7 minutes per mile and gradually worked their way up to 45 minutes a day three days a week at 16 minutes per mile.

      The aging process normally leads to natural decline in cell size and blood flow in the frontal and prefrontal areas of the brain.

      Researchers say during rapid walking, the frontal areas of the brain take in additional oxygen, a process that increases the brain's reaction time and heightens the ability to ignore distractions and complete a variety of mental tasks carried out on a computer. Researchers say walkers improved their oxygen intake by 5 percent.

- More articles on Walking

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