When it comes to my feet, I’m like the princess and the pea – sensitive to every little discomfort.

Last month, this sensitivity became an issue. I needed my feet to carry me well over a long-distance trail in the Netherlands. But instead, I experienced pain and discomfort.

What was going on? A gait analysis revealed that I had been wearing shoes that were too small.  Did you know that feet tend to flatten as you get older? Over the past few years, mine had grown a full size larger! So, I treated myself to a new pair of super comfortable hiking shoes. Now, my feet are ready and eager to walk!

This article “Walking Your Way to Better Brain Health” explores the connection between walking and mental well-being.

Why walk?

Most of my work involves sitting at my desk for online conferences, webinars and client-conversations. It is already well known that excessive sitting is detrimental to our health.

Here is why walking is so beneficial for the functioning of our brain and body:

Walking enhances our creativity

Taking breaks from sitting and go for a walk, gives the executive brain a rest and activates other brain networks such as the default mode network.

  • Improve cognitive and creative agility

 

Walking makes the brain more agile, enabling us to place memories, thoughts, and feelings in a new context.

Walking calms the mind

Walking enhances mindfulness.

I view the mind as everything encompassing the brain does, including the creation of subjective experiences and consciousness.

While I am walking, my mind can wander freely. I can be everywhere or nowhere, and this does not need any effort ; it happens largely unconsciously. I might be aware of the act of walking, or I might walk without being fully conscious of it, but either way, I am not really aware of how I walk. It is for me a healing process.

Walking reduces stress

Walking is always beneficial for managing stress. It reduces stress by engaging the physiology of the brain and the body in motion through processes like angiogenesis and neurogenesis:

Let me briefly explain these concepts:

Angiogenesis

Movement stimulates the growth and creation of new blood vessels in the brain, particularly in areas where the brain continues to develop and expand.

Tens of thousands of blood vessels transport oxygen and nutrients daily to 80-100 billion brain cells.  Angiogenesis, the process by which new blood vessels grow from existing ones, ensures the brain remains well-supplied with these vital resources. By further developing this network in our brain, we prepare it to handle real challenges more effectively.

It might sound strange, but if you want to expand the networks in your Brian, then get your feet moving. Our brain needs your feet to walk!

Neurogenesis

Not long ago, scientists believed that neurons, the nerve cells in our brain, were not replaced once they died. Neuron loss can result from various factors, including aging, neurodegenerative diseases, stroke, injury, drugs and alcohol, and chronic stress. We used to think we had to make do with the neurons we were born with for our entire lives.

The good news is that we generate new neurons throughout our lives, through a process called neurogenesis.

Humans have an estimated 100 billion nerve cells, the vast majority of which are located in the brain and spinal cord. New neurons primarily form in the hippocampus, the brain’s memory center. Walking and physical activity stimulate the production of new neurons in the hippocampus.

The circuits of nerve cells in the brain regulate many functions and are responsible for our cognitive abilities.

Walking keeps you fit

Walking works preventively to keep you mentally and physically fit.

In a more relaxed state, walking keeps your brain and body resilient. You can occasionally take a (physical or mental) sprint when needed, but after working hard, our brain needs to relax. And that can be achieved through… yes, you already guessed it… walking! 😀🚶♀️.

I prefer walking  in nature, through forests and along rivers. This year I started walking long distance trails, and the more I love walking. It has become a habit and a life style.

Our brains simply need our feet to move!

What do you do to maintain or boost your #resilience?

Connect with me

I am a nutritionist, health professional, a multi-certified professional coach and coachsupervisor and a masterneuroplastician, supporting individuals and teams in growing resilience.

Or let’s walk together! Join me 4 days walking, 12- 15 June 2024, in Alkmaar, The Netherlands at the wandel4daagse.