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October is National Walking Month

I love celebrations, holidays ... occasions -- of any kind. Someone says, "Today is National _____ day, my ears perk up. It's National ______ month. You have my attention.

I'm not sure what that says about me ... but we won't go there. Suffice it to say, its a break in the routine. Something to look forward to.

So, October is National Walking Month. I'm not sure who decided it to be such. They most likely didn't live in Seattle because very often our October's are not exactly perfect walking weather. How about September?

However, it is a good reminder that exercise, even walking 15 minutes per day, can have a lasting effect on our bodies, our life and even our emotions.

An article in The New York Times caught my attention this morning, "How Exercise Can Strengthen the Brain." This article is about a new South Carolina study recently published in The Journal of Applied Physiology where scientists determined that, in mice at least, exercise not only remodels muscles rendering them more durable and fatigue-resistant, they may also work the same way in our brain cells.

After two months, two sets of mice, and treadmills, scientists in this study discovered after taking samples of mice brain tissue, there was evidence of new mitochondria in brain muscle cells.

Of course, this experiment was conducted with animals, and “mouse brains are not human brains,” Dr. J. Mark Davis, a professor of exercise science at the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina and senior author of the new mouse study says. “But,” he continues, “since mitochondrial biogenesis has been shown to occur in human muscles, just as it does in animal muscles, it is a reasonable supposition that it occurs in human brains.”

"Past experiments have shown persuasively that exercise spurs the birth of new mitochondria in muscle cells and improves the vigor of the existing organelles. This upsurge in mitochondria, in turn, has been linked not only to improvements in exercise endurance but to increased longevity in animals and reduced risk for obesity, diabetes and heart disease in people. It is a very potent cellular reaction," says the New York Times article.

An excellent argument for renewing our commitment to exercise, even moderately. It's time to dust off those walking shoes and head out into this beautiful world as the air turns more crisp and the leaves begin their final show. Breath deep, look outward, and appreciate the beauty. And when that hill gets a little steep, congratulate yourself, you're building mitochondria and very likely strengthening your brain cells. I think we could all use a dose of that!

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