Walk Your Way to Better Brain Health and Longevity - Chi Living

Walk Your Way to Better Brain Health and Longevity

Posted by Katherine Dreyer on Wed Aug 5th, 2015, 7 comments

Walk Your Way to Better Brain Health and Longevity

Exercise is being shown to be perhaps the most important factor in keeping healthy—physically and mentally—as we age. Exercise changes the way our brain functions and grows, improving the quality of our whole life experience. When we walk fast, regardless of our age, we produce new cells in the hippocampus, the brain area that plays a key role in turning short-term memories into long.

Until fairly recently it was thought that the brain remained static after childhood, but early studies in the new and exciting field of neuroplasticity have proven that the brain's neural pathways and synapses change due to changes in behavior, the environment, emotions, thinking, and, yes, exercise.

In Norman Doidge’s exciting new book, The Brain's Way of Healing: Remarkable Discoveries and Recoveries from the Frontiers of Neuroplasticity , he says, “Walking, so natural, so ‘pedestrian,’ may not be a high-tech neuroplastic technique, but it is one of the most powerful neuroplastic interventions.”

He also devotes a chapter in his book to the inspiring story of John Pepper who staved off the debilitating effects of Parkinson's Disease with fast walking and (the and is important) concentrating and focusing his mind on his body’s movements.

Sound familiar?

In ChiWalking® and ChiRunning® you are asked to focus your mind and retrain your body to move in new and improved ways. As it turns out, you’re not only improving your posture and core strength. Your brain, as well, responds very positively to focused concentration on the body’s movements.The medical profession, backed by recent studies, is now proposing that walking speed may be added as one of the key vital signs (the others being heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate and body temperature). Two PhD’s, Stacy Fritz and Michelle Lusardi write:

“Walking speed is ‘almost the perfect measure.’ A reliable, valid, sensitive, and specific measure, self-selected walking speed, also termed gait velocity, correlates with functional ability and balance confidence. It has the potential to predict future health status and functional decline including hospitalization, discharge location, and mortality.”

Yes, your walking speed is considered one of the key indicators of how long you will live, as well as when you might need to be hospitalized and when you can subsequently go home. Who needs a psychic when your walking speed can tell you so much about your future? 

So, walking has not only been shown to be a reliable predictor of mortality,  it has been found that improving your walking speed can improve your ability to move through challenging health issues.

John Pepper’s most significant relapses took place because of injury. ChiWalking® is all about preventing injury so you can consistently get exercise by walking. Here are some ways to improve your walking speed without getting injured.

Technique and distance always come before speed. Don’t go out and start walking faster. Practice good ChiWalking® technique at your regular speed and add some distance before you start adding in speed. Build up to at least 2 miles, walk that distance consistently for 2 weeks, at least 3 times a week, preferably more, then start adding speed.

  1. Use a metronome as your walking speed will directly correlate to your strides per minute (spm). In ChiWalking® you will increase your spm to go faster. Learn more about using the metronome here. Purchase one here.
  2. Make sure your upper body and shoulders are pressing against the air in front of you and use your legs as little as possible to increase your speed.
  3. Practice good arm swing. ChiWalking® is whole body walking. The upper body is just as important as you legs.
  4. Add a little bit of ChiRunning® if you feel able. Adding in a bit of light ChiRunning® will build your capacity to walk faster or just add in some cardio walking intervals where you walk beyond your normal, aerobic pace for 1-3 minutes.

So, folks, if you want to maintain the quality and quantity of your life, it’s time to lace up those shoes and add a consistent and mindful practice of Chi Walking exercise to your life.

Your brain will thank you.

Save 15% off of any ChiWalking and ChiWalk-Run digital products with the code FASTER15!

7 CommentsLeave a comment below

I have a brain injury. I have Border collies. Brain rehab tells me that it is my daily walks (s) with my dogs that has kept me going. After three years of brain rehab, I am now stepping up my game to running. My dogs are happy. I am a firm advocate of the chi running/walking methods. I have known it would be one of the ways in which I would retrain my body/brain once I was able to maintain spatial awareness etc. Even more so now as brain rehab often agrees in method and science with the mind/body connection that Danny advocates. Using a metronome in concert with specific movements is actually key to brain recovery. In effect, getting it all together. I have just joined the chi running school. It is amazing what a difference in my gait etc the lean makes. I have no doubt my recovery will accelerate with chi running.

Hi! Im struggling with shin splints so I’m going to go from heel striking to midfoot striking. I’ve heard it’s important to ease into it. How do you suggest I do this because I need to keep training for xc. Any suggestions?

Hi, the lean works. Do it as Danny describes. I’ve just started running and while I’m a steady walker, it’s been years since I’ve been able to run. Zero difficulties. No shin splints and no sore muscles. Just do the lean. You feel it in your core. Trust it.

Keith McConnell Aug 26th, 2015 05:27pm

Hi Katherine - great blog. If we could get the word out to the “masses”, just think of how much good health could be spread to others. Healthy brains, healthy total person - yay ChiWalking!

Re. Phoebe’s question, mid-foot landing is fine if she’s running. If she’s walking, landing on the underside of heel (ie. rear of foot not mid-foot), not on back edge of heel, will help a lot as will having the lead leg and landing occur under the body not in front of it. Also, once the foot touches down, keeping a relaxed lower leg and ankle joint allows for an easy “peeling” motion of the foot, a good goal as that too reduces stress on shins (as well as elsewhere)

Sunil Khosla Sep 2nd, 2015 02:51am

I agree.

katherine i an love with your research and all the good work in your blogs its really amazing..

I agree. Thanks Katherine!

What are your thoughts?

Please enter the word you see in the image below:

Top 100 Runnning Blogs award
Healthy Recipes image

Healthy Recipes

Shop and Eat Well

From grocery lists to yummy breakfasts and nutritious dinners, our Recipe Library can help get you started with good eating habits or rejuvenate your palate.

Find Recipes >

Over a million happy runners can't be wrong.

Watch our FREE video series and run easier and better than you ever imagined. Feel the difference in your next run!