Read Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John J. Ratey Eric Hagerman Online


A groundbreaking and fascinating investigation into the transformative effects of exercise on the brain, from the bestselling author and renowned psychiatrist John J. Ratey, MD.Did you know you can beat stress, lift your mood, fight memory loss, sharpen your intellect, and function better than ever simply by elevating your heart rate and breaking a sweat? The evidence is iA groundbreaking and fascinating investigation into the transformative effects of exercise on the brain, from the bestselling author and renowned psychiatrist John J. Ratey, MD.Did you know you can beat stress, lift your mood, fight memory loss, sharpen your intellect, and function better than ever simply by elevating your heart rate and breaking a sweat? The evidence is incontrovertible: Aerobic exercise physically remodels our brains for peak performance. In SPARK, John J. Ratey, M.D., embarks upon a fascinating and entertaining journey through the mind-body connection, presenting startling research to prove that exercise is truly our best defense against everything from depression to ADD to addiction to aggression to menopause to Alzheimer's. Filled with amazing case studies (such as the revolutionary fitness program in Naperville, Illinois, which has put this school district of 19,000 kids first in the world of science test scores), SPARK is the first book to explore comprehensively the connection between exercise and the brain. It will change forever the way you think about your morning run---or, for that matter, simply the way you think...

Title : Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780316113502
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 304 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain Reviews

  • Ensiform
    2019-04-27 22:15

    The author attempts to explain for the layman, but ends up using masses of neurological jargon and acronyms, about the role exercise plays in sharpening our mental processes. Boiling it down to the basics: moving our muscles produces proteins that play roles in neurogenesis and the repair of synapses. It also helps the production of hormones such as serotonin and norepinephrine that regulate mood. Therefore, Ratey argues, daily sustained aerobic exercise is a sure cure-all for depression, ADHD, the ravages of aging, raging hormones in menopausal women, addiction, phobias, etc.He makes his point with study after study, but this certainly could have been a more readable book. First, as noted, Ratey can’t help using baffling medical jargon like LTP (long-term potentiation, or the ability to attach synapses), BDNF (a protein that strengthens brain cells), cortisol, dendrite, VEGF (growth factor), all of which is overwhelming for the average reader. Some of it could easily have been skipped to no detriment to the argument. Second, he then becomes repetitive. In each chapter, he explains how studies show that movement elevates these receptors, factors, and proteins; but really, once is enough. I think the book would have been improved had it had an introductory chapter that showed the hard science, then focused on case studies, for example, only making passing references to the science chapter as needed. Instead, Ratey seems to think he must explain the biological processes each time. Third, he comes off as a zealot, and he has the unfortunate blinders of a zealot: he recommends, without fail, 45 minutes of sustained aerobic activity four days a week, two days of intensive aerobic activity, with focus on strength training, balance, new skill sets (so karate or yoga rather than just running), and social interaction. Yes, I’m sure that would be fantastic, but it’s preposterously unrealistic for the average American, let alone one recovering from addiction or depression. Certainly, Ratey notes often enough that people should start out slow, consult their doctor, and so on, but it’s clear he has no patience for anything but the highest level of activity, and devotes almost no space to developing a slow, reasonable build-up to fitness. The information is good and the science interesting, and Ratey may be perfectly reliable, but the tone of his book is something like that of a cult member or a car salesman.

  • Clif Hostetler
    2019-05-14 20:19

    Exercise is the single most powerful tool available to optimize brain function. That is the message from this book. Everybody knows that exercise creates a fit body, but what many forget is that the brain is part of the body too. Modern science has been able to learn much about how the brain works, and has even tracked neurogenesis (i.e. new cell growth) in the brain in response to exercise. The old saying, "Once your brain cells die, they can’t grow back," is a myth.This book has chapters about the effect of exercise on learning, stress, anxiety, depression, ADHD, addiction, hormonal changes and aging. The author explains how exercise helps in each condition. Exercise is truly a miracle drug, and you can bet the drug companies are working hard to capture some of its benefits in a pill. But the body's (and brain's) reaction to exercise is so complex, multifaceted and exquisitely balanced as to make it certain to never be fully captured within a pill. It should be no surprise that humans respond positively to exercise. We're descendants of hunter-gatherers who were optimized over thousands of years by evolution to walk and run around the equivalent of many miles per day (i.e. the couch potato of the caveman era died young).I've decided to include in this review more than the usual amount of excerpts from the book for my future reference. I may need this info to motivate myself in the future.This book's focus is exercise, but the author slips a few comments in about nutrition that caught my eye:Low-carb diets may help you lose weight, but they're not good for your brain. Whole grains have complex carbohydrates that supply a steady flow of energy rather than the spike and crash of simple sugars, and they're necessary to transport amino acids such as tryptophan into the brain.The brain is made up of more than 50 percent fat, so fats are important too, as long as they're the right kind. Trans fat, animal fat, and hydrogenated oils gum up the works, but the omega-3s found in fish are enormously beneficial. Population studies have shown that countries in which people eat a lot of fish have lower incidence of bipolar disorder. And some people use omega-3s as a stand-alone treatment for mood disorders and ADHD. One study showed that people who eat fish once a week slow the yearly rate of cognitive decline by 10 percent. The Framingham Heart Study followed nine hundred people for nine years and found that those who ate three meals with fish oil per week were half as likely to develop dementia. Omega-3s lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and neuronal inflammation, and they elevate the immune response and BDNF levels.Because of my age I have particular interest in quotations from the book regarding issues related to aging. The following is an extended except from the book (pages 233-237) where the author summarizes the ways in which exercise mitigates the human aging process.THE LIFE LISTMuch of the public discourse on aging focuses on baby boomers becoming senior citizens and the belief that their vast numbers will take an unprecedented toll on the health care system, in the form of dementia and other costly health problems. But I don’t believe we’re stuck with this picture of doom and gloom. Despite my generation’s familiarity with fast food and pay per view, we also came of age with Kenneth Cooper’s revolutionary concept of aerobics. Unlike previous generations, we recognized how a healthy heart and healthy lungs stave off disease, and we know our way around the gym. My mother just happened to have the good habit of walking, and even Harold, the eighty-year-old skier from Michigan, isn’t terribly well versed in matters of health and fitness. He once asked the trainer June Smedley what was causing a muscle twitch, and when she suggested it might be dehydration, he scoffed, saying, “I drink lots of fluid--coffee, milk and wine!”I have faith that when people come to recognize how their lifestyle can improve their health span--living better, not simply longer--they will, at the very least, be more inclined to stay active. And when they come to accept that exercise is as important for the brain as it is for the heart, they’ll commit to it. Here’s how exercise keeps you going:1. It strengthens the cardiovascular system. A strong heart and lungs reduce resting blood pressure. The result is less strain on the vessels in the body and the brain. There are a number of mechanisms at work here. First, contracting muscles during exercise releases growth factors such as VEGF and fibroblast growth factor (FGF-2). Aside from their role in helping neurons bind and promoting neurogenesis, they trigger a molecular chain reaction that produces endothelial cells, which make up the inner lining of blood vessels and thus are important for building new ones. These inroads expand the vascular network, bringing each area of the brain that much closer to a lifeline and creating redundant circulation routes that protect against future blockages. Second, exercise introduces more nitric oxide, a gas that widens the vessels’ passageways to boost blood volume. Third, the increased blood flow during moderate to intense activity reduces hardening of the brain arteries. Finally, exercise can to some extent counteract vascular damage. Stroke victims and even Alzheimer’s patients who participate in aerobic exercise improve their scores on cognitive tests. Starting when you’re young is best, but it’s never too late.
2. It regulates fuel. Researchers at the Karolinska Institute conducted a nine-year study of 1,173 people over age seventy-five. None of them had diabetes, but those with high glucose levels were 77 percent more likely to develop Alzheimer’s

.As we age, insulin levels drop; and glucose has a harder time getting into the cells to fuel them. Then glucose can skyrocket, which creates waste products in the cells--such as free radicals--and damages blood vessels, putting us at risk for stroke and Alzheimer’s. When everything is balanced, insulin works against the buildup of amyloid plaque, but too much encourages the buildup, as well as inflammation, damaging surrounding neurons.

Exercise increases levels of insullin-like growth factor (IGF-1), which regulates insulin in the body and improves synaptic plasticity in the brain. By drawing down surplus fuel, exercise also bolsters our supply of BDNF, which is reduced by high glucose.
3. It reduces obesity. Aside from wreaking havoc on the cardiovascular and metabolic systems, body fat has its own nasty effects on the brain. The CDC estimates that 73 percent of Americans over sixty-five are overweight, and given the potential problems obesity can lead to--from cardiovascular disease to diabetes--the agency is right in declaring it a pandemic. Simply being overweight doubles the chances of developing dementia, and if we factor in high blood pressure and high cholesterol--symptoms that often come along with obesity--the risk increases sixfold. When people retire, they figure they deserve a break after working their whole lives, and they start piling on the food. but what they don’t realize is that having dessert with every meal is no treat. Exercise, naturally, counteracts obesity on two fronts: it burns calories, and it reduces appetite.
4. It elevates your stress threshold. Exercise combats the corrosive effects of too much cortisol, a product of chronic stress that can bring on depression and dementia. It also bolsters neurons against excess glucose, free radicals, and the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate, all necessary, but they can damage cells if left unchecked. Waste accumulates and junks up the cellular machinery, and it starts turning out dangerous products--damaged proteins and broken fragments of DNA that trigger that latent and ultimately inevitable process of cell death that defines aging. Exercise makes proteins that fix the damage and delay the process. 
5. It lifts your mood. More neurotransmitters, neurotrophins, and connectivity shore up the hippocampus against the atrophy associated with depression and anxiety. And a number of studies have shown that keeping our mood up reduces our chances of developing dementia. The evidence applies not only to clinical depression but also to general attitude. Staying mobile also allows us to stay involved, keep up with people, and make new friends; social connections are important in elevating and sustaining mood.
6. It boosts in immune system. Stress and age depress the immune response, and exercise strengthens it directly in two important ways. First, even moderate activity levels rally the immune system’s antibodies and lymphocytes, which you probably know as T cells. Antibodies attack bacterial and viral infections, and having more T cells make the body more alert to the development of conditions such a s cancer. Population studies bear this out: The most consistent risk factor for cancer is lack of activity. Those who are physically active, for instance, have a 50 percent lower chance of developing colon cancer.

Second, part of the immune system’s job is to activate cells that fix damaged tissue. When it’s out of whack, these damaged spots fester, and you’re left with chronic inflammation. This is why, if you’re over fifty, your blood will be tested for C-reactive proteins as part of your standard physical. These proteins are a sign of chronic Alzheimer’s. Exercise brings the immune system back into equilibrium so it can sop inflammation and combat disease.
7. It fortifies your bones. Osteoporosis doesn’t have much to do with the brain, but it’s important to mention because you need a strong carriage to continue exercising as you age, and it is a largely preventable disease.

Osteoporosis afflicts twenty million women and two million men in this country. More women every year die from hip fractures--a vulnerability of osteoporosis--than from breast cancer. Women reach peak bone mass at around thirty, and after that they lose about 1 percent a year until menopause, when the pace doubles. The result is that by age sixty, about 30 percent of a woman’s bone mass has disappeared. Unless, that is, she takes calcium and vitamin D (which comes free with ten minutes of morning sun a day) and does some form of exercise or strength training to stress the bones. Walking doesn’t quite do the job--save that for later in life. But as a young adult, weight training or any sport that involves running or jumping will counteract the natural loss. the degree to which you can prevent the loss is impressive: one study found that women can double their leg strength in just a few months of weight training. Even women in their nineties can improve their strength and prevent this heartbreaking disease.
8. It boosts motivation. The road to successful aging really begins with desire, because without the desire to stay engaged and active ad alive, people quickly fall into the death trap of being sedentary and solitary. One of the problems of getting older is the lack of challenges, but with exercise we can continually improve and push ourselves.

Exercise counteracts the natural decline of dopamine, the key neurotransmitter in the motivation and motor systems. When you move, you’re inherently boosting motivation by strengthening the connections between dopamine neurons, while at the same time guarding against Parkinson’s. This really underscores the idea that if you’re not busy living, your body will be busy dying. It’s important to have plans and goals and appointments, and this is why sports such as golf and tennis are great. They require constant self-monitoring and the motivation to improve.
9. It fosters neuroplasticity. The best way to guard against neurodegenerative diseases is to build a strong brain. Aerobic exercise accomplishes this by strengthening connections between your brain cells, creating more synapses to expand the web of connections, and spurring newly born stem cells to divide and become functional neurons in the hippocampus. Moving the body keeps the brain growing by elevating the supply of neurotrophic factors necessary for neuroplasticity and neurogenesis, which should otherwise naturally diminish with age. Contracting your muscles releases factors such as VEGF, FGF-2, and IGF-1 that make their way from the body into the brain and aid in the process. All these structural changes improve your brain’s ability to learn and remember, execute higher thought processes, and manage your emotions. The more robust the connections, the better prepared your brain will be to handle and damage it might experience. 

I don't think it's necessary to understand what all those terms mean, but if they bother you it's possible to Google them in most cases.The following quote is about the relationship between exercise and dementia.Population studies support the evidence that exercise holds off dementia. In one about 1500 people from Finland originally surveyed in the 1970s and again 21 years later when they were between 65 and 79 years old. Those who had exercised at least twice a week were 50% less likely to have dementia. What's particularly interesting is that the relationship between regular activity and the onset of dementia was even more pronounced among those carrying the ApoE4 gene. The researchers suggest that one explanation might be that their brains neuro-protective systems are naturally compromised by the gene variant making life style particularly important. The bottom line ... is that all we can do at the present time is modify the environmental factors to get the best out of the whatever genes we have.My only disappointment with the book is that it doesn't say that writing long book reviews is good for the brain.

  • Nicole
    2019-04-28 21:27

    This book gets a bit repetitive after awhile (I quit after reading about 3/4 of it), and the conclusions he drew from some of the research studies seemed to really be stretching what you could reasonably conclude from the actual results.But it did convince me that I had to start exercising after being pretty sedentary for the last 4 or 5 years. And six months later, I'm still convinced and still I guess it had a bigger positive impact on my life than most things I read.

  • Hans
    2019-05-02 21:23

    Incredible read. Everyone knows the benefits of exercise on the muscles and heart but now studies have discovered what it does to the brain, which is even more impressive. The last couple of years has had an explosion of Neuroscience books. What is even more unbelievable is that the researchers have actually decided to share what they are discovering in a way anyone can understand instead of the typical closed circle of academia.To some extent the discoveries aren't surprising, but then it is always nice to actually have hard-evidence for something many people just intuited. With this book as well as a few others I have now adopted the paradigm of the baseline human body template being that of a stone-age hunter/gatherer. In the stages of evolution of the human body and mind we spent most of our time in that time period, with our bodies being finely tuned to that lifestyle. Now anytime we deviate too far from that active lifestyle and diet we start to experience the detrimental effects. Our sedentary easy-access-to-processed-food lifestyles are in direct contradiction to what our bodies were optimized for hence all the multitude of obvious ailments plaguing the industrialized world.The latest studies have revealed1) Exercise helps produce the chemicals in the brain that grow new neurons in the brain, increasing our learning aptitude.2) Exercise regulates and balances the multitude of chemicals and hormones in our brain that directly affect our mood, specifically depression. Cognitive therapy works on depression from the pre-frontal cortex down, and anti-depressant medication works from the brain stem up, exercise attacks depression from both the top and the bottom, as well as re-wiring and re-structuring the brain, causing long-term changes.3) It helps people with ADHD improve their ability to focus. 4) It helps anyone struggling with addiction to gain the strength, motivation to over come it.4) Women get more for less with exercise, it helps balance all the fluctuations brought on from the different cycles of hormone levels from menstruation, pregnancy, post-postpartum, and menopause. 5) It helps old people prevent Alzheimer's, dementia, osteoporosis. As well as keeping their energy levels higher, improving their mood, and helping with their mental acuity.All in all, if there was one silver bullet that magically possessed all humans needed to thrive and be healthy both mentally and physically exercise would be it. Our bodies and minds work best when they are moving.

  • Niki
    2019-05-14 00:18

    This book was well written and extremely persuasive. It got me back into fitness again & I'm thankful.

  • Vivian
    2019-05-08 23:17

    If you're the kind of person who needs to be intellectually convinced by mountains of research to confirm something you already know - as I am - and you're trying desperately to start a regular exercise habit - as I am - you need to run and get this book, like, yesterday. I'm actually very serious: I have a very athletic husband, who is the epitome of healthy living, as an example in front of me every day; I've read tons of articles about the benefits of exercise, and have known for practically my whole life the importance of getting my body moving. But my mind resisted, and has just never really gotten with the program, so to speak...Between another book I've read recently, about outwitting your resistant mind ("Mini-Habits"), and this book, which goes into fascinating detail about the importance of exercise for absolutely everyone, I think I'm finally starting to be willing to "drink the Koolaid." I think the way Ratey has organized the book, with an opening about the life-changing results of exercise for high school kids, to chapters discussing the advantages of exercise for many different conditions - including anxiety, ADHD, depression, addiction, menopause and aging - there is really something in here for everyone. I could think of at least five family members, myself included, who could benefit from reading this book, and since every family has medical conditions that exercise could most certainly help, the information given here is worth reading by anyone who wants to be happier and, most importantly, healthier. I'm sold. Very highly recommended.

  • Jenny (Reading Envy)
    2019-05-13 23:05

    To be fair, I skimmed this book for bits that were relevant to me. I read chapter 3: Stress, very carefully. It was a revelation to discover that the body actually creates glucose as part of the stress reaction, and shuts down cells from processing it so that it remains available for immediate energy, leftover from back when stress was always physical danger.All sorts of connections to my own health - made. "One of the ways exercise optimizes energy usage is by triggering the production of more receptors for insulin. In the body, having more receptors means better use of blood glucose and stronger cells. Best of all, the receptors stay there, which means the newfound efficiency gets built in. If you exercise regularly, and the population of insulin receptors increases if there is a drop in blood sugar or blood flow, the cell will still be able to squeeze enough glucose out of the bloodstream to keep working. Also, exercise increases IGF-1, which helps insulin manage glucose levels."

  • Kate
    2019-05-24 01:04

    Oh my god. According to this book I am a walking recipe for Alzheimer's disease. This is a book by a Harvard psychiatrist about the link between mental health and exercise. As life-long depression sufferer with not one, but two parents who suffer/ed from Alzheimer's, I'm pretty much in the exponentially high risk category for dementia. But there is hope, if I get off my ass and start exercising.The author covers, not only the brain physiology of exercise in relation to aging, depression, anxiety, ADHD and addictions, he also takes on the PE establishment--you know, those dodgeball-playing, drill-sargeant, sadistic bastards we used to have as gym teachers? The ones who coached the good athletes in their classes and pretty much ignored and/or humiliated everyone else? Apparently, there's a movement afoot to change the way gym is taught (high time, I'd say) that actually encourages physical fitness. What a concept.Anyway. This is worth a read. Where's the nearest gym?

  • David
    2019-05-03 22:18

    This book is a review of much of the research that has been published in the past decade or so, on the subject of exercise's effects on the brain. It is an absolutely first-rate book. I have read a lot about how exercise improves one's mood. But I had not realized the many other benefits to one's brain, intelligence, memory, problem solving, that are induced by exercise. The very first chapter describes how a strong school exercise program has benefited an entire school district. Exercise can actually induce physical enhancements to the brain, for example, increase the volume of the hypothalamus by up to 30%. This book is quite amazing--highly recommended!

  • Sambasivam Mani
    2019-05-22 01:04

    Must-Read book. At this modern age bad habits and laziness are killing people. To save lives and have a healthy life exercise is must. This book reveals the secret that exercise will strengthen our brain and body together. People who are addicted to bad habits get addicted to it because they need the pleasure to overcome depression, anger, stress and pain. This book tells us how to avoid bad habits and start exercising. People who thinks that exercise is an additional work or burden should read this book and understand the importance of exercise and how it can change their life. Physical activities change biological reaction in the body. People who do regular exercise stay on top on a country level - which includes technology, sports, etc. Exercise is a preventive medicine as well as an antidote. Exercise particularly affects our executive function - planning, organization, initiate or delay a response, consequence evaluation, learning from mistake, maintain the focus, working memory and it helps us to access the front part of the brain (prefrontal cortex - both right and left) and increases the learning ability. Author of book (John J. Ratey) talks about a particular kind of Squat which helps to increase the learning ability by concentrating on prefrontal cortex.Pain is related to depression and exercise is an antidepressant. Depression is defined by an absence of moving toward anything, and exercise is the way to divert those negative signals and trick the brain into coming out of hibernation.Inactivity kills muscles and brain. however exercise helps our body to grow muscles, grow brain tissues and avoids aging.Learned the importance of mind-body connection and the idiom "Prevention is better than cure". Author talks about different factors which plays a major role in our body.BDNF - Brain-Derived Neurotrophic FactorIGF-1 - Insulin-like Growth FactorFGF-2 - Fibroblast Growth Factor VEGF - Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor DBS - Deep Brain StimulationECT - ElectroConvulsive TherapyTMS - Transcranial Magnetic StimulationPET - Positron-Emission tomographyADHD - Attention Deficit Hyperactivity DisorderVTA - Ventral Tegmental Area.DDAT - Dyslexia, Dyspraxia & Attention TreatmentDDR - Dance Dance RevolutionLTP - Long Time PotentiationLLPDD - Late Luteal Phase Dysphoric DisorderCBT - Cognitive Behavioral TherapyPMDD - Premenstrual Dysphoric DisorderGAGA - Glutamate and Gamma-aminobutyric AcidEPDS - Edinburgh Postnatal Depression ScaleHRT - Hormone Replacement TherapyCDC - Centers for Disease ControlThis books explains why it is good to maintain health as it helps us to stay away from disease and helps us to recover fast when affected with disease. On the whole, Better Fitness = Better Results = Better Performance.

  • Alex
    2019-05-04 02:04

    As a gym teacher, I am all about movement. I want my kids to be active and engaged for as much of class as possible. But even though I was already on the exercise bandwagon, I had no idea how extensive the benefits of exercise really are. In Spark, John Ratey explains why the benefits of exercise to the heart, lungs, and muscles, are secondary to the benefits of exercise to the brain. The first chapter is the most engaging, where he shows how a few rogue school systems boosted test scores and lowered behavioral issues by introducing morning exercise programs. One school scored in the top 5 in the world in math and science. The book gets progressively more boring. Each chapter following deals with a specific issue: depression, anxiety, ADHD, women's health, aging, etc. And in these chapters Ratey provides tons of research that explains, in maddeningly boring detail, what exactly exercise does to alleviate issue X. The main takeaway from Spark is that humans are creatures that are meant to move, and exercising balances us out in untold ways. It literally makes your brain a higher functioning organ, which makes your self a better self. So exercise. There, I just saved you 271 pages of reading. The other, less important takeaway was that humans do terrible, awful things to rats in the name of research. Poor rats.Ultimately, Spark is an important book, but one that is a slog unless this issue is one that fascinates you.

  • Shaw
    2019-04-28 01:00

    I absolutely loved this. Amazing information on fitness and American education. Listening to the miracle of feel good hormones and neurotransmitters that fire during exercise gave me the intellectual understanding of exercise I needed to help motivate me to be consistent in my fitness schedule. Learn faster, learn better, reverse aging, decrease anxiety, get happy, read Spark.

  • Deanna
    2019-05-23 20:10

    Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John J. Ratey takes a fascinating look at the relationship between exercise and brain function. Citing numerous scientific studies as well as various anecdotal stories, Ratey looks at the benefits of exercise relative to learning, stress, anxiety, depression, attention deficit, hormonal changes, and aging. Anyone looking for some motivation to exercise or to improve their consistency is certain to find something in the text. Most of the focus relates to aerobic exercise, but other forms of exercise are also mentioned although they generally do not have as many scientific studies relating to them. The following are some general take always from the book:1. Exercise improves both the body and the mind.2. Consistent exercise balances the chemistry of the brain.3. Exercise can actually build neural pathways reversing previous damage.4. There are far more good reasons to get off my butt and exercise than excuses not to do so.While the book can be a little tedious with all of the biochemistry, it is definitely worth taking time to read and I would recommend it for everyone. 5 stars.

  • Rebecca
    2019-05-12 04:17

    I'm torn on the number of stars I want to give this book. I love the message of the book and it has truly changed the way I think about exercise! = 4/5 stars. But, as a non-scientist, I felt bogged down by the (loooong) sections that tried to explain how certain processes work in the brain. = 2/3 stars. He "proves" his theories with all the scientific stuff, but I'd honestly rather just take his word for it than have him try to explain it. Even though I listened to every word, I pretty much still had to take his word for it, because I didn't understand what he was explaining. What I did like was the case studies, especially of the school in the first chapter. At this school, P.E. grades are based on effort, not skill, as determined by heart rate monitors. As a slow and uncoordinated athlete (he he) I embrace that concept!! I am already in the habit of exercising nearly every day, as is my husband. I already encourage my kids to be active: I strictly limit the amount of time they spend on screens; they're all in sports on a weekly or more basis (except for my youngest); I take them swimming, to the park, on bike rides etc. I already knew exercise is good for the body and mind but this book takes it to the next level. Basically the author says exercising literally grows brain cells. As you move your body, you move your brain connections. Exercise today puts a deposit in your brain's bank account for your golden years. I believe it and am even more motivated to stay active and to keep my kids active. I feel validated as a mom battling against screens for my kids. (Sorry, kids!) Oh, except I have to say, now I'm thinking about getting Just Dance for our Wii. I'm on the primal bandwagon and this book fits right in with that lifestyle and backs it up with science (that I don't understand!)What stuck out to me the very most is the author's recommendation for certain sports for kids with ADHD. I have two kids diagnosed with ADHD. Two of the sports he recommends are gymnastics and karate. It just so happens that my daughter (ADHD with a capital H) is in gymnastics (and she's amazing!!) and my son is in karate. They picked their sports . . . I wonder if their brains knew something I didn't? I've heard before that exercise has the same effect on the brain as ADHD pills, but without the side effects. The author of this book agrees. Our son does fine without medication, but our daughter needs it to get through the school year. This summer I decided to not give her her pills, let her more active summer days be her drug and get rid of some of the side effects. I've been surprised by how well she's done. I'm a believer. If only the school days weren't so stressful on her. I think our school does a great job with keeping the kids active, especially the last couple of years with a grant they won . . . but it's still school and she still struggles.Anyway . . . I think I just wrote a long journal entry trying to pass as a book review.

  • David Everling
    2019-05-05 00:09

    An excellent exercise motivator! This being a pop-science book it'll be most effective if you're a logically minded person or in need of some explicit reasons to overcome creeping apathy or procrastination. One of the best aspects of a book on exercise is that you can test and verify the essential ideas as they relate to your own experience; I often listened to the audiobook while jogging or at the gym. Knowing more about how something you're doing is good for you is an additional reward in itself, and for me this encapsulates the main value of reading this book.The book is of course pro-exercise throughout its illustrative anecdotes and in its description of the physiological mechanisms involved, but it does look at a wide variety of experience, from physical pain to depression & mental disorders to everyday moods. Ratey isn't as good as a journalist or fiction writer, but he's clearly a doctor who's explained these ideas to patients and skeptics before, and he provides a reasonable and persuasive case for the substantially positive effects of exercising and elevating heart rate on a regular basis (i.e. in a manner consistent with natural human evolution).

  • El
    2019-05-01 00:06

    This is a book assigned for the kid's phys ed class in high school. I pre-read it as I tend to pre-read all her assigned books's gotten us up and moving! Lots of why's and how's here, and like my general unease that we're not evolved enough to eat processed food, we're also not evolved enough to be as sedentary as we are. We're long-distance runners trapped in our cars, on our work computers, and on our tv-watching's no wonder why our lifestyle slowly, painfully, kills us. Getting up and moving is more than just something good for our bodies, it's good for our brains and general wellbeing.

  • Jack
    2019-05-18 02:58

    Exercise is good for the brain. Okay, that's credible, could you tell me more? The authors begin with a very promising anecdote about a school in Naperville. I find it compelling. Then they proceed to ramble through a supposed survey of the modern neuroscientific literature. This might be genius. It might be crap. And I can't tell after having read the book, and that's definitely for crap.I am enormously sympathetic to the challenges of writing a scientific book for the lay public. It's hard. I get it. But compare this to NurtureShock. Neither uses footnotes. Because, I am told, footnotes are scary. But NurtureShock includes a big section at the back where they document the basis for their assertions. They use a trick well known to many historians, of providing detailed references for their assertions in a Notes section by keying to page and then distinctive phrase, rather than to a footnote. This lets one go and read for one self if one finds something interesting or dubious.The author of Spark take a much more condescending approach. Just trust me, the lead author asserts, he is, after all, on the faculty at Harvard. (Are clinical professors really "on the faculty"?) And so the descriptions of the evidence behind his repeated and bold claims are skimpy, and there is nowhere else to go. And, in a book purporting to be about bringing the benefits of science to people, this seems to me utterly unacceptable. * * *Now, it turns out that I'm being hard on Dr. Ratey. If you google him, you can find his webpage. If you go to Publication, you find his book, and when you click on the link to "learn more", you are delivered to Amazon to buy it. (Seriously, not even an alternative to an independent bookstore, John?) But if you go to Resources, you can find a bibliography for each Chapter -- not keyed to individual assertions in the Chapters, mind you -- with a set of references. I couldn't find any reference to this web page in the book when I was initially looking for it. But if you really, really, really insist on seeing the evidence he cites, you can sort of kind of find it. I leave it to you, dear reader, to decide whether this supports or disproves my conjecture about the intellectual tone of the book.

  • Cj
    2019-04-29 03:03

    I like to move. I don't dread exercise, I enjoy it. My problem is that I tend to relegate exercise into the category of "fun" instead of "necessity". Because of this, I am always on the look out for ways to remind myself that exercise is essential. In that regard Spark is extremely handy. I don't like exercising because it is "healthy"; I find that reasoning way too wishy-washy for my brain to wrap around. I like looking good. But I suppose I'm just not shallow enough to devote my time to my own ego. But I like my brain...most of the time. Dr. Ratey emphasizes that exercising is not for your body but for your mind. For me, science junkie that I am, his effort to demonstrate the necessity of exercise for my brain was extremely motivational and made sense. But I don't like the way he did it. The problem is: he doesn't back up his claims with any references to the research he cites. One of my favorite science-as-self-help books is Daniel Goleman's Emotional Intelligence, and I enjoy Malcolm Gladwell's watered-down research in Blink. I'm not sure how good their references are, but both authors cite the research they use to prove their points. From Dr. Ratey there is zip! In one chapter he refers to a study done by the U.S Department of Energy that tracked two groups of nuclear shipyard workers. One group was exposed to radiation, the other group wasn't. Supposedly, the group exposed to the radiation was in better health. Then he claims the study was never published because it failed to show the expected malignant results of radiation. Maybe that is true. Maybe it's not. But there isn't much the reader can do but accept what he says. When authors use research to support their claims, but then are vague about their sources, it makes me very uncomfortable, especially when I can compare it to other books where the authors make a much better effort to give their ideas credibility, even in the field of pop-science. I don't regret reading it. It offers a very interesting perspective on why I should make exercise a priority, and it has motivated me to change bits of my life style to make that happen. I could not recommend buying it, which is a shame since his ideas seem very interesting and worth exploring. But that's the problem: he offers the reader no option for exploration of the ideas he presents.

  • Mario Tomic
    2019-05-18 22:27

    The big idea of the book is very simple: Physical activity is a necessary part of our evolution to develop ourselves both physically and mentally. John Ratey, the author, starts the book with a hypothesis that we have developed superior brains because we're creatures that need to move to find food. Adding on to that exercise keeps us sharp through several neuro-pathways that helps us learn the best ways to manage our food, predict how our environments work and remember all of this for the future use. In essence the connection between physical activity and learning is hardwired into the brain's circuitry.The book then dives into the damaging effects of the modern sedentary lifestyle and goes into dozens of studies presenting positive effects of exercise on learning, stress management, anxiety, depression, ADHD, addiction, hormonal changes, and aging related conditions such as Alzheimer's Disease. Every single one of these conditions can be massively improved through exercise.One thing about this book that might put off a lot of people is that it's quite technical and goes into A LOT of studies and case studies. That makes the book a big harder to digest, and adding to that the whole message of the book which is basically "Exercise is good for you." could probably be presented in a more attractive way.At the same time I really enjoyed the details, I think it does help the reader to "buy-in" more into exercise as a lifestyle as the benefits are enormous no matter what age, gender or lifestyle you have right now.I would definitely recommend this book if you're not sure what exercise does because you'll learn all the ways how it shapes your brain, and the benefits it has to living a happier and more fulfilled life.

  • Stacy
    2019-05-18 01:23

    This book spells out the variety of positive effects that exercise has on a person's brain. Ratey explains how the human brain has evolved to benefit in many ways from physical activity, including mood regulation, anxiety moderation, higher ability to learn, even staving off mental deterioration. He then details how exercise has benefitted particular subgroups, such as those with ADHD or depression, pregnant women, and the elderly. Despite discussing some unfamiliar neurochemical names, the narrative remains very accessible to the layperson. I would highly recommend this to anyone who wants or needs a motivational boost to start an exercise/fitness program.

  • Rolando Gill
    2019-05-05 02:27

    This is the most important book you will never read! The research and its conclusions are mind blowing. If you just read the first couple of chapters you will start to move. Throughout the book the author repeatedly demonstrates that exercise is the best way to improve your life experience. This book could change the planet, if only everyone would read it.

  • Roma Jones
    2019-05-04 23:05

    I was interested in the science behind this idea, and it did motivate me to get off my butt, But I quickly became bored due to the repetitivness of the information and had to skim the rest

  • Andrea
    2019-05-01 21:11

    Excellent book! It changes the way you think about exercise. Not only is exercise good for your body, it does amazing things for your brain. Definitely recommend this book!

  • Kater Cheek
    2019-05-06 23:05

    My friend recommended this to me as good solid research for how exercise improves your brain. Not only does exercise make you think faster, it also improves your mood, makes you live longer, and can reverse soem of the effects of aging. Ratey's book makes aerobic exercise sound like a snake-oil panacea, except that he backs it up with evidence as to what it's doing at a chemical level.Even though I've read more than one book on neurology, some of the biochemistry in this went over my head. I would have had to read it several times to remember what chemical does what. If you have more of a scientific background, the chemical/neurology might be easier to understand. However, he does describe what each thing means for the layman. Basically, the premise of this book is that aerobic exercise makes you better in just about every way, shape, and form. He briefly touches on balance and weight-bearing exercise, but mostly, he talks about aerobic exercise, and it gets to the point where you can see he's pretty particular about running.From the standpoint of a reader who likes science, this was a pretty good book. A little hard to understand at parts, but not more than the book BUZZ or some other pop-science books I've read. It describes exactly what chemicals are released in your blood when you exercise, and what those chemicals do to other chemicals in your brain, and what the underlying result is. From the standpoint of a woman who would like to be healthier, I found it a little daunting. First of all, because Ratey holds running up as the ideal exercise. I'm a big fan of exercise. I love aerobics, dance, swimming, gardening, walking, weight lifting, rock climbing, martial arts, and pilates and do them whenever the opportunity presents itself without any problem. Running causesme excruciating pain, itching, and depression. So it's hard to read a treatise on exercise that hints strongly that running is really the best type of exercise, that all others are inferior. It's like a vegan reading a treatise that insists that dairy products are really the only decent source of calcium. At one point Ratey gives a hagiographic description of a man who's an expert marathoner. He suggests that despite the runner's 3-4 hours a day of running training, he still has enough time for his job and family. The catch? He only sleeps 5 hours a night. Ugh.I suppose you can't have a book that talks about exercise that doesn't at some point suggest the ideal amount of exercise. The good news, a little exercise will help you more than you think. More exercise will help you a lot. The bad news, his "ideal" amount of exercise is 45 minutes to an hour of "high" exertion (where jogging is "moderate" and walking is "mild") every day, along with two or three days of interval training. This disincludes the weight-bearing or stretching or balance exercise that one might presumably also want. I'm not sure what sort of lifestyle has room for the "ideal" amount of exercise. Hunter-gatherer maybe. Single guy without a girlfriend. I've read a lot of characters in novels who run an hour every morning, but they're also usually heiresses with violet eyes, who do their taxes early and actually clean behind the refrigerator. Regular schmoes will have to make do with gardening or walking the dog or an occasional game of tennis.Rainey also discusses how exercise can help children do well at school, and this is something that parents might want to read about. I won't get into specifics, but the results are startling, if true, and make the elimination of PE classes from cash-strapped schools even more of an atrocity.I recommend this book for pop-science buffs and people who like to obsess about their health.

  • Cara
    2019-04-27 23:18

    Totally fascinating so far. Exercise helps you learn by making your brain grow. Holy crap!...What I love about this book is the way he explains everything in scientific detail--no oversimplification or handwaving. The explanation of the stress response really brought together and cleared up a few other things I had read about how stress affects your body. Now I feel like I really understand it. He gives the full story, yet the style is engaging and never obfuscated. This is the best thing I've read in months.Notes:p. 46 -- lab rats taken home to play with kids smarter. Rats with toys, obstacles, hidden food, running wheels, and socialization had different brain structure, faster learning, and more brain mass than rats in boring cages. Boring environments/lack of stimulation can shrink the brain.p. 48 Brain cells grow back. Neurogenesis: "Neurons are born as blank-slate stem cells, and they go through a development process in which they need to find something to do in order to survive. Most of them don't. It takes about twenty-eight days for a fledgling cel to plug into a network, and, as with existing neurons, Hebb's concept of activity-dependent learning would apply: if we don't use the newborn neurons, we lose them... Ironically, with running, The same percentage of cells die as in the control group--it's just that you have a bigger starting pool. But in order for a cell to survive and integrate, it has to fire its axon. Exercise spawns neurons, and the stimulation of environmental enrichment helps those cells survive."p. 65 "Two neurotransmitters put the brain on alert: norepinephrine arouses attention, then dopamine sharpens and focuses it." Imbalance => ADD people can focus only under stress--need norepinephrine to get dopamine. Thus the project firefighters who are really arsonists.p. 74 Unrelenting stress--stress hormones just keep flowing. Amygdala keeps firing, cortisol overflow. Too much physically damages the hippocampus--free radicals kill cells there and retract dendrites. Neurogenesis is interrupted. Weight gain around belly, insulin resistance, etc. Vicious cycle--the more the amygdala fires, the stronger it gets and the weaker the hippocampus &c (braking, context, rational thought) become. Exercise kick-starts the recovery process and restores balance among neurotransmitters.p. 92 exercise helps with anxiety disorder, also helps average people feel less anxious.p. 99 exercise as effective as antianxiety drugs in study of people with panic disorderp. 103 overcoming fear: "While we can't erase the original fear memory, can't remove old memory, we can essentially drown it out by creating a new memory and reinforcing it. By building up parallel circuitry to the fear memory, the brain creates a neutral alternative to the expected anxiety, learning that everything is OK. by wiring in the correct interpretation, the trigger is disconnected from the typical response, weakening the associating, between, say, seeing a spider and experiencing terror and a racing heart. Scientists call it reattribution."p. 123 exercise better than Zoloft at fighting depressionOther amazing results: reverse the mental effects of aging, lessen PMS, help with ADD and addiction. Best results from running, things requiring agility/concentration, like dancing and rock climbing. Intervals super powerful--even one 30-second sprint makes a big difference.

  • Marcelo Bahia
    2019-05-03 02:03

    This book really deserves a 5-star rating. Not because it's one of those "almost perfect" books, but because of the meaningful impact it will probably have in the life of the reader.You'll be eager and excited to seriously insert exercise in your daily routine after reading this. The positive consequences mentioned in the book are all really visible to anyone after a few weeks or months of training.When I first saw the book, I thought "how could anyone write a WHOLE book on the relationship between exercise and the brain?". In Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School by John Medina, the subject deserved only a chapter, and it seemed more than enough!To my surprise, it's really a pleasure to read the whole book. Surely, sometimes the book can be repetitive - the separate chapters dedicated to anxiety, attention, aging, etc, could easily been made as subsections of a same chapter, if the format was a paper/article instead of a book. Still, although the main logic is the same across all chapters, each one adds at least one important aspect or nuance to the subject.Some people might also think that the biological explanations are more detailed than they should, but you can easily skip them if you want to. Despite possibly making the reading less pleasurable for some of the people, I still think they are needed, as they make the book much more suitable to doctors who don't work in the neurology field. This probably helps to spread the word along the medical world, which is very important as well.

  • Angela Coan
    2019-05-02 00:07

    I don't often recommend books to large groups of people, but this book has information about something crucial to daily life! And it applies to everyone. Are you human and alive? This books applies. The book can be of tremendous help to get people motivated to exercise, but it also gives understanding about how exercise impacts our brain and overall health. The research runs the gamut from fetal development to old age, and many disorders such as depression, anxiety, ADD/ADHD. There is so much science in this book that some people are not going to enjoy reading it. The writer, a neurologist, uses extensive research along with medical and scientific language to adequately explain what has been learned on the subject (100s of studies from around the world). Even though I didn't memorize all of the names of protein factors, brain chemicals, and what-have-you, I was able to understand the message and increase my knowledge of human physiology. I appreciate that he points out which parts are anecdotal. Some of what he writes is his advice (mostly, go exercise!). I recommend reading chapters that are most pertinent to you or listen to the audio book (like I did; it was great) if you find the science talk too tedious. I found this book to be thoroughly convincing and persuasive. I was amazed and fascinated at the wide range of benefits of exercise. I listened to many parts of this book more than once to let it really sink in. I also had to make sure I wasn't distracted so I could grasp all that was being explained.

  • Megan Olsen
    2019-04-29 23:12

    A very interesting and motivating discussion of the different ways that exercise benefits your brain, as opposed to your weight. Very refreshing to read all about the mental health benefits of consistent, 20-minute cardio workouts, instead of the mass of "literature" we have about working out to look good.The author goes through several sections:-depression-anxiety-ADD and focus problems-Chronic Stress-Literacy and Learning-PMS and menopausal symptoms-Dementia-osteoporosis-Immune System issuesI appreciated that while the author is very pro-exercise, he is NOT anti-medicine. The studies that he cites are very promising and hopeful, and make you want to go workout!One thing that got a little repetitive: he is quite thorough about describing the neural processes involved in each benefit, but toward the end, I was like, "OKAY! I trust you, just gimme the bullet point.":)Also, SO many studies on rats and mice. They must be so annoyed with us. If there is a rodent hell, we will all go there after we die!

  • Angelique Scharine
    2019-04-29 22:11

    I'd rate this a 10 if I could! This is an easy to read, but very much grounded in science, book about the value of exercise. Rather than just focus on the physical, it takes it to the neural level, tying together neuroscience research about how exercise stimulates some of the same neurogenesis processes that stress does and that the exercise/rest cycle grows brain cells, increases focus, aids in mental health, protects against aging, dementia, & disease, and reduces the hormonal effects of menstruation, pregnancy and menopause. I have been touting this book since I read it - as a must for everyone. I myself, will "get healthy" and then lose interest - seeing exercise as unrelated to other goals of career and family. This book has convinced me that I was wrong, and that I'd be selfish and self-limiting with respect to my family and career if I DON'T exercise. This is a real mind-changing experience. Don't read it if you don't want your excuses for not exercising to be dashed into bits!

  • Erinn
    2019-05-11 00:07

    I've always been in pretty good shape but now I'm interested in exercising more and more regularly. The American public is far too sedentary. Exercise won't cure everything but it makes a lot of diseases such as diabetes, depression, hypertention, arthitis, osteoporosis, insomnia, (the list goes on) easier to treat. This book lays out the scientific information on why exercise is good for our brains and bodies. It also gives you a sense of how to start and accomplish a successful exercise program. I agree that the book can be somewhat repetitive, however, I find that the best way to get my patients to do what is good for them is consistent drilling into their brains.