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Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain Paperback – January 1, 2013

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; Reprint edition (January 1, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316113514
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316113519
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (319 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,668 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"This is my self-help book for the season."—Houston Chronicle

"At last a book that explains to me why I feel so much better if I run in the morning!"—Dr. Susan M. Love, author of Dr. Susan Love's Menopause and Hormone Book and Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book

"SPARK is just what we need. In mental health, exercise is a growth stock and Ratey is our best broker."—Ken Duckworth, M.D., Medical Director for the National Alliance on Mental Illness

"This book is a real turning point that explains something I've been trying to figure out for years. Exercise is not simply necessary, as Dr. Ratey clearly shows, it's medicine."—Greg LeMond, three-time winner of the Tour de France

"SPARK is mercifully short on Ivy League med-school-speak. And it may just spell the end of all dumb-jock jokes."—Outside Magazine

"I enthusiastically recommend this book...If your goal is to live a long and healthy life to the fullest then Spark should be required reading."—Kenneth H. Cooper, M.D., M.P.H., "Father of Aerobics"

"Bravo! An extremely important book. What Cooper did decades ago for exercise and the heart, Ratey does in SPARK for exercise and the brain. An utterly convincing and brilliantly documented ground-breaking work...So, get moving! Your brain will thank you and repay you many times over."—Edward Hallowell, M.D., The Hallowell Centers

"Ratey has culled the latest science and found that a regular workout can help build a better, faster brain."—USA Today

About the Author

John Ratey, M.D. is a clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. He is the author of numerous bestselling and groundbreaking books, including Driven to Distraction and A User's Guide to the Brain. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he has a private practice. Eric Hagerman is a former editor of Popular Science and Outside. His work has been featured in The Best American Sports Writing 2004, Men's Journal, and PLAY.

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Customer Reviews

This was a very well written, fairly easy to understand book.
N. Grabe
His book, Spark: the Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain provides enough scientific evidence to spark an interest in all readers.
Armchair Interviews
The author shows how physical exercise cues the brain to learning and affects mood, anxiety and attention skills.
Pascale G. Michelon

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

316 of 328 people found the following review helpful By steven langston on January 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book explains in clear terms the role exercise plays in our mental processes. Moving our muscles produces proteins that play roles in our highest thought processes. Ratey says, "thinking is the internalization of movement." He illustrates this with the story of the sea squirt that hatches with a rudimentary spinal cord and 300 brain cells. It has only hours to find a spot of coral on which to put down roots or die. When it does put down roots, it eats its brain. According to Ratey only a moving animal needs a brain.

He begins with the value exercise has for the learning process in high school students: improved academic performance, alertness, attention and motivation.

He cites studies that say we can alter our mental states by physically moving. He said depression is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. He then presents a chapter where depression is relieved in case studies by exercise.

Among the areas Ratey covers are: stress, depression, ADD, and aging. This book is a great motivator for exercise.

However, Ratey's work was preceded by Glenn Doman's. Doman advocated exercise for brain injured children in the 1950s when the only 'treatment' was to institutionalize them. He later started a `super babies' program. Both the educational and medical establishments attacked and marginalized Doman's work.
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156 of 160 people found the following review helpful By Brunello VINE VOICE on January 21, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Our doctors always say to get more exercise. We always yawn and say of course; we've heard it all before. And then we are mediocre in our follow up. After reading Spark my entire viewpoint has changed. Exercise is a master key to brain functioning. Cholesterol and other system problems caused by lack of exercise are a bit ambiguous since we often can't directly feel them until we manifest some disease. Brain functioning is something else entirely. We can feel an almost immediate change after aerobic exercise. After reading Spark I definitely have become a six day a week exerciser. I need my brain functioning as well as possible, and the data in this book has made a believer out out of me.
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47 of 49 people found the following review helpful By John V. Forrest on June 1, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
John Ratey is a Harvard psychiatrist who subspecializes in the clinical use of exercise in mental diseases. In Spark he examines clinical and lab research in neuro-hormones, the chemical soup that determines how well our brain works.
The front plate quote by Plato says it all," In order for man to succeed in life, God provided him with two means, education and physical activity. Not separately, one for the soul and the other for the body, but for the two together. With these two means, man can attain perfection." (To this I'd like to add good nutrition, sorry Plato.)
This book has many interesting stories together with the technical information. It is a quick, enjoyable read.
We feel good when we exercise because it allows the brain to function at its best. Muscle building, cardiovascular conditioning, reducing stress and tension are secondary. Our society and its conveniences have made it difficult to get enough physical activity. We now have to work at it.
The Naperville School District (19,000 students) west of Chicago has redesigned its P.E. system. All students participate in P.E. classes which develop cardiovascular fitness. In class students use heart rate monitors to gauge their degree of exertion. The only games played are ones with high levels of sweat like three-on-three basketball. Students are taught to encourage and support each other. The results have been dramatic: 10% of the number of overweight children found in other school districts; only 3% of students in Naperville are overweight. In an international study of 230,000 students those from Naperville were sixth in math (first in the U.S.A.) and first in science, ahead of Singapore, China, Korea and Japan. To confirm that the fitness program is key a study compared test results after P.E.
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147 of 166 people found the following review helpful By M. Bankal on January 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Having ready 2 previous books by John : The users guide to brain and Driven
by distraction i was looking forward to reading SPARK. I was especially
interested in learning how John was going to tie exercise with the brain
functioning since i am a strong supporter of exercise and have experienced
its benefits. I knew before reading SPARK that exercise in some way does
make you feel better. But SPARK puts it in perspective from a scientific
point of view. The chapters on Stress and depression particularly caught my
attention since most of us struggle with these 2 issues at some point in
life and again most of us turn to popping a pill to deal with it. If its as
simple as getting on a treadmill or a bike and working out for 30-45
minutes without any side effects, then it seems only logical to do it. The
BDNF (Miracle-gro as John calls it) was a very interesting read for me. I
did had to go back and re-read certain topics as was it too much medical
terms to comprehend in one read. But once i got it, it became permanent and
that's the beauty of this book.
Its simple yet powerful in its message. The simplicity comes from the fact
that "you goto workout ". The power comes from the facts / data that proves
"why you goto workout". Once the reader ties the two together, the message
is very clear and hopefully will remain for a lifetime with the reader.
Today if you look around there is a lot of awareness among people about the
ill-effects of obesity. There are TV programs, advertisements, books about
why exercising is good for you and how it will help you be more fit. But
this is the only books that tells you that exercise will also make your
brain fit along with your body. The brain-body connection is important and
one cannot be ignored over the other.
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