Spark, the Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain

What you always wanted to know about how we were built to move.

Spark, the Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain

By John J. Ratey, MD (coauthor of Driven to Distraction---I just requested this book!) with Eric Hagerman 2008

Both Kirkwood and St. Louis County Libraries have the book

I wish I could remember where I heard about this book, but cannot. Maybe it was on a Charlie Rose interview... but 2008 seems too old a book for a current interview. Oh well, no great matter. At least we heard about it! That is the problem, isn't it. How to hear about the books we want to be reading.

DH has changed his exercise patterns after reading the book. I hope I have. It may be that I will need to finish the next book I am into about habits before I get there. The front of this book goes on to say “Supercharge your mental circuits to beat stress, sharpen your thinking, lift your mood, boost your memory, and much more.” (Italics mine). The author makes a case throughout the book to choose exercise as an effective therapy, with virtually no side effects, instead of (only) resorting to prescription medications and/or addictive behaviors. He gives a lot of science and studies to document his conclusions that I found interesting and sometimes a bit deep. Worth the study, though.

This is one of those books (I can only think of two others offhand) that gives information I wish I had had access to when I was younger.  I think it is a game changer.  The other two books are Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards and a book on critical thinking called Effective Problem Solving by Marvin Levine.

Here are a couple great statements from Spark: “Among those with the least cognitive decline over a four year period, three factors turned up: education, self-efficacy and exercise” (page 43). “... exercise strengthens the cellular machinery of learning” (page 45).

Besides yourself, if you have children or grandchildren, you might be interested in studies that show how much impact exercise can have on ability to learn. (And not just taking gym classes where the kids stand around waiting to be picked for some game. There are more effective approaches). If you are dealing with stress and resulting anxiety, and who isn't, the author offers encouragement in the form of exercise therapy. ADHD... same thing. How about aging? Yes. The last chapter is called The Regimen... Build Your Brain. Awesome.

We live in interesting times, and this book stresses our need to physically move in order to function well at whatever tasks are at hand. My new heart-rate monitor just came in the mail yesterday... I wore it around the house and in the garden, and was surprised at how my tearing about gets my heart pumping! That was encouraging for a start.

Needless to say, I recommend reading it.  Let me know what you think!

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