GOING FOR A daily walk has been shown to be an excellent way to fight stress, improve health, and help keep you sane, but until now scientists really didn’t know how the simple act of perambulating gives us so many great benefits. A recent study from New Mexico Highlands University, though, found that when we walk our bodies create pressure waves that are sent through the arteries that significantly modify and increase the supply of blood to the brain.

The small study of 12 young adults, which was presented at the annual Experimental Biology meeting, used ultrasound to measure blood velocity waves and arterial diameters to determine cerebral blood flow rates to both sides of the brains during either a rest period or continual walking at 1m per second. They discovered that, even though you hit with a lighter step when walking, it creates a bigger pressure wave than running and boosts blood flow to the brain even more.

Scientists noted that there is a whole cascade of effects happening when we walk, cycle, or run that bumps up brain blood flow and can optimize brain function, and gives us a sense of well-being. “What is surprising is that it took so long for us to finally measure these obvious hydraulic effects on cerebral blood flow,” said study author Earnest Greene, Ph.D. “There is an optimizing rhythm between brain blood flow and ambulating. Stride rates and their foot impacts are within the range of our normal heart rates (about 120 beats per minute) when we are briskly moving along.”

Make time during your day to take a walk, whether it’s just a lunchtime stroll around the block or when you get home and the dog needs some exercise. Consistent walking may make you smarter, stronger, and stress-free, so get to stepping.