If you’ve found yourself making the comment, “…well that was a senior moment…”, as you struggle to recall some factoid you’re attempting to share with a friend or colleague, I have an enjoyable solution for you: join a guided small group walking tour with Classic Journeys!

Am I falling victim to shameless self-promotion and puffery?

Not according to a new study just published on Jan. 31 in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In it, researchers found that the hippocampus — a part of the brain important to the formation of memories — begins to atrophy around 55. (That number is coincidently the average age of guests on Classic Journeys cultural walking adventures and culinary tours.) Now, psychologists are suggesting that the hippocampus can be modestly expanded, and memory improved, by nothing more than regular walking.

Paula Span wrote a great article about this in the February 7 New York Times, and she notes that the scientists, “…randomly assigned 120 healthy but sedentary men and women (average age mid-60s) to one of two exercise groups. One group walked around a track three times a week, building up to 40 minutes at a stretch; the other did a variety of less aerobic exercises, including yoga and resistance training with bands.”

A couple walking

Those walks of 40 minutes at a stretch are similar to the segments of walks that we do each morning and afternoon on our guided small group walking tours. If you paired those 40 minute segments around a visit with locals at a village school in Peru, at a winery in Burgundy, with a shepherd in Tuscany, or watching an emerald toucanette in Costa Rica, you’d get a pretty good idea of what a morning or afternoon is like with Classic Journeys on tour.

The researchers found that after a year, brain scans showed that among the walkers, the hippocampus had increased by about 2 percent; in the others, it had declined by about 1.4 percent. They noted that these sorts of declines are normal in older adults, but “a 2 percent increase is fairly significant,” said the lead author, Kirk Erickson, a psychologist at the University of Pittsburgh.

Obviously, we’re thrilled when we learn that something we already enjoy is also good for our health. At Classic Journeys, walking means that the world can’t slide past you faster than you can absorb it. It means breathing air scented with wild thyme, sea mist and sun-warmed grapes in places like Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast and the Istrian PeninsulaBarcelona and Costa Brava, or the Amalfi Coast. On our guided small group walking tours, you encounter people you’d never meet otherwise…wildflowers you’d never have noticed…chapels whose cool quietness you’d never have entered. In our book, walking is the best way to immerse yourself in the cultural and natural history of a place. And now it turns out that the walking will even help us retain those memorable moments on tour as well.

Group walking in Glacier National Park, Montana

You can read more about walking at Classic Journeys, or any of our 68 walking, cultural, culinary and family journeys in 31 countries on 5 continents. Or drop us line at blog@classicjourneys.com to speak with me or our team directly.