Going for regular walks could help to slow down the progression of Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's, a US study has found.
Researchers at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Massachusetts, state when walking a chemical known as FNDC5 is produced in the muscles and released into the bloodstream as a hormone called irisin.
The substance has been found to help keen neurons in the brain healthy and the scientist hope to one day be able to inject it into those suffering with cognitive conditions.
Professor Bruce Spiegelman, who led the study, said: "What is exciting is that a natural substance can be given in the bloodstream that can mimic some of the effects of endurance exercise on the brain.
"Our results indicate that FNDC5/irisin has the ability to control a very important neuro-protective pathway in the brain."
The study involved lab mice running on a wheel for 30 days. The researchers found that this led to a rise in the FNDC5 protein, which in turn increased production of BDNF, a neurotrophic protein in the brain which plays a part in memory and learning.
Earlier this month, a joint study from Macmillan Cancer Support and the walking charity Ramblers stated that 37,000 lives could be saved each year in England if more people spent two and a half hours strolling or cycling each week.
The bodies found that a lack of physical activity is directly linked to 17 per cent of deaths.
However, they feel that 150 minutes of exercise would cut breast cancer cases by 7,000, bowel cancer by 5,000, and diabetes by 295,000.
In the foreword to the study, Kevin Fenton, director of health and wellbeing at Public Health England, said that 61 per cent of adults and 30 per cent of children in the UK are now considered to be obese or overweight.
And this issue alone is costing the UK economy more than £10 billion each year in health care.
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