Members of our Move For Minds panel tell us about the benefits of movement and exercise.

Dr. Lisa Mosconi: When it comes to being physically active, there’s no shortage of good reasons to get a move-on. If avoiding heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes aren’t motivation enough, relieving depression and anxiety, and keeping a healthy weight also make for convincing arguments. There’s another reason, though, one which applies especially to our brains. Exercise causes actual physical changes in the brain that not only act as a safeguard against future dementia but invigorate your abilities to think, reason and remember here and now.

Jessica Caldwell, PhD: As a brain researcher, I know movement directly supports brain health, with exercise helping us to stay mentally sharp as we age. As a psychologist, I think it is also important to remember that moving improves our mood and our stress levels. Better mood can help us to be more “in the moment” and be more effective thinkers day to day, and reducing stress reduces levels of some brain chemicals that can be bad for our memory over time.

Dr. Richard Isaacson: When it comes to brain function over time, and especially to one’s ability to maintain their memory as they age, you’ve got to ‘move it or lose it.’ Also, as the belly size gets larger, the memory center in the brain gets smaller. Exercise, especially high-intensity interval training or HIIT, can help to reduce body fat and also be the brain’s best defense against amyloid plaque, which is the bad sticky stuff that builds up in the brain of a person with the disease.

Wendy Suzuki: Moving your body releases a veritable cornucopia of brain chemicals and growth factors that benefit your brain’s anatomy, physiology and function.  While higher levels of physical activity may work best to stimulate the birth of new brain cells and synapses (some of the most powerful brain-effects of exercise), even a simple walk has demonstrable effects on mood and affect.  The secret:  find a way to move your body that is fun, and fits easily into your lifestyle so you do it regularly.

Dr. Drew Ramsey Movement and nutrient-dense real foods are the two most powerful tools we have to preserve and enhance our cognitive functioning. Brain health benefits from all kinds of movement from running to dancing to strolling. What is better motivation to move for your mind? Movement is like leafy greens and rainbow vegetables for me. I make it happen everyday to protect and build my brain.

Dr. Dean Ornish: Exercise—move more—is one of the most powerful things you can do to improve your cognitive health. Plus you should try to eat well, stress less, and love more. The best exercise is one you enjoy—if you like it, you’ll do it.