The dollar-store secret to a better brain

As much as I like a good bargain, I'm no fan of dollar stores. They're a reminder of the truth to the old adage that you get what you pay for.

But there's one thing you'll find in any big dollar store that's worth more than a buck.

A simple pedometer has the power to improve your health and change your life.

You know how it works: You clip it on your belt, and it'll count your steps all day long. Click-clack-click-clack, next thing you know you've hit 1,000... 2,000... 3,000 steps or (hopefully) a whole lot more.

Some folks turn it into a game. Some practically obsess over it.

You don't have to do either.

But if you can push yourself to hit a very basic and easy-to-achieve minimum, you could enjoy BIG rewards where it matters most -- right inside your brain!

New research shows how a gentle walking habit can lead to clearer thinking... a sharper mind... a boost in memory... and better overall cognitive function.

And all you have to do is walk 4,000 steps per day.

That's less than 2 miles a day -- or, for most folks, a leisurely 40-minute stroll each day.

The new study finds that hitting this simple target each day can help rev your brain so that it can process information faster, give you a better attention span, and improve your all-important executive function.

According to recent tests on 29 older adults tracked for about two years, it can even juice up your memory.

All that's great, since it's what you'll notice on the outside. But the changes under the hood are even more impressive.

That same daily walking habit can increase the thickness of certain parts of your brain.

I know "thick-headed" is often an insult. In reality, it's just the opposite.

When your hippocampus starts to thin out, you're at risk for cognitive struggles. When it thins too much, you could even be at risk for dementia.

The new study finds that walking can help keep that critical region thicker, so your brain works better.

This doesn't mean that walking is a cure for dementia or anything like that, but it's certainly a step -- or maybe 4,000 steps -- in the right direction.

So, next time you're out, pick up a pedometer and keep track of your own daily movement. If you're not hitting at least 4,000, step it up.

And for even better results -- including better overall health -- aim for 7,000 to 10,000 steps a day.