Take a Walk and Call Me in the Morning
Nevada’s Risk for Dementia
Thinking clearly has all kinds of benefits that we could all use more of these days. And although cognitive impairment, aka dementia, is not the leading cause of death in Nevada, according to CDC data it does rank as Nevada number 3. Realistically, none of us can avoid aging and yet as we slow down and we get older, it affects our health. The simple equation is when we move less, we get less oxygen which takes the edge off of clear thinking. Boo!
The terms Alzheimers and Dementia are used interchangeably according to Harvard Medical School, but there is a difference. The former is caused by protein plaques that tangle and eventually kill brain cells, but the latter refers to several different causes. Vascular dementia is the second most common cause of cognitive decline developing from cholesterol-clogged arteries that restrict the delivery of oxygen rich blood to the brain. This is bad because though our brain only accounts for 2% of our body weight, it uses a hefty 20% of the oxygen we breathe. When the brain is deprived of the oxygen it needs, brain cells begin to die within 5 minutes, negatively affecting good brain function.
The Correlation between Medium Intensity Exercise and Brain Function
On the bright side there is a lot of science that says between 120-150 minutes a week of moderate intensity exercise (like brisk walking, gardening or tennis) can re-grow those brain cells, reduce cholesterol, and in just six months of regular walking can significantly restore brain function! That’s only 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week, which seems very doable for any of us to work up to, and so enjoyable!
Frequent exposure to nature is associated with self-reported better well-being in adults and improved cognitive development in children at all ages, and it is up to us to make sure it happens.
Finding a good work/life balance between rest, relaxation, and exercise is key to longevity. Each has their place in good health, but time constraints and procrastination can leave exercise on the bottom of the list when we are tired at either end of the day. With 160+ parks and all the connector trails in the Truckee Meadows, it is a lot easier than you might think to squeeze in a walk.
Walking around the block is a classic step in the right direction, parking far from the storefront can add a few steps, or when you’re feeling playful you can race the kids across the park…even 10 minutes a couple of times a day adds up! But if you want to meet new folks, learn some local history, or just up your game a few times a week, Truckee Meadows Parks Foundation can foot the bill.
Walk it off with Truckee Meadows Parks Foundation
TMPF’s parks directory has a comprehensive list of parks that can lead you to discover enchanting shady glens, river access, and wide-open spaces throughout the Meadows. We host weekly Discover Your Parks walks at 6pm every Thursday evening. Our Dementia Friendly Nature Walks along the Truckee River on Tuesday mornings at 10am is perfect for caretakers, their charges, and those who just want a gentle walk in good company. For those who are ready for some robust hoofing, please join the Truckee Meadows Trails Challenge to get more trail time under your belt. Register ahead so we will know you are coming and so your brain health can simply become a walk in the park!
See you on the trail?
About the Author:
Born and raised in the West, Ann has a life-long love of the Sierras. Recently completing her master's at UNR in communication studies, she is looking forward to joining the Truckee Meadows Parks Foundation team as their Membership Coordinator and making new friends in the community. Eager to share her enthusiasm for the outdoors she looks forward to inviting locals to come outside and reap the benefits of our lovely open spaces. In her spare time, she can be found in the garden with her cat or on an “explore” in one of the nearly 200 wonderful parks in our area!
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Nature.com.Spending at Least 120 Minutes a Week in Nature is Associated with Good Health and Wellbeing, retrieved 6/28/2022. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-44097-3
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Picture of Scale, retrieved 8/5/2022