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If You Dust Off Those Hiking Shoes, Your Brain Might Thank You

Senior group hiking in forest for exercise
Yuri Arcurs peopleimages.com/N Lawrenson/peopleimages.com - s
Senior group hiking in forest for exercise

Summer is here, leading to opportunities for older Wisconsinites to get outside and not only improve their physical health but their brain health, too. Research has been emerging about the link between exercise and improved mental-health outcomes.

Sarah Lock, senior vice president for policy and brain health, AARP, and executive director, Global Council on Brain Health, said you can take it a step further by doing physical activities outside of your home. The council recommends being active in a nature-like setting in hopes of keeping things such as anxiety and depression at bay.

"Being outdoors helps mediate some of those issues, so hiking is [a] wonderful activity," she said.

Moving around increases blood flow to the brain, giving it a chance to soak up more oxygen and nutrients, Lock added.

Lock explained you should not worry so much about a long, rigorous pattern for each outdoor activity.

"The recommendation in general is about 150 minutes a week, and the science is not completely settled on this. Some studies suggest that you can space that out over a week," she explained.

She said 15 minutes a day is sufficient. And it does not have to be every day, so long as you keep with it on a regular basis and avoid being sedentary for long periods of time. For those confined to their homes because of underlying health issues, Lock said any kind of physical activity is still beneficial. And if you live in a setting with higher levels of pollution, try to get outside when the air is at its clearest and take a walk through a local park.

Mike Moen is a radio news reporter with nearly two decades of experience in the field. He has covered much of the upper Midwest, including Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin and the Dakotas. Many of his stories have aired nationally, including several public radio programs.
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