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Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain Paperback – January 1, 2013
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"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
"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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Ratey dwelves in physiological details how exercise boosts the levels of various neurotransmitters, hormones, and proteins which in turn positively affect our overall health and cognitive capabilities including memory, learning, mood regulation.
Ratey conveys what specific type of exercises assist specific health situation and cognitive functions. There are tens of related interesting insights throughout the book. I am just mentioning a few examples below.
1) BMI and aerobic fitness are significant markers of academic performance.
2) Three neurotransmitters play a preponderant role in managing our moods, attention, perception, motivation, and movement. They are serotonin (mood), norepinephrine (focus), and dopamine (reward-system, movement). And, the pharmaceutical industry has focused on them: boosting serotonin to manage anxiety and depression; increasing dopamine to manage Parkinson). However, exercise boosts all three without any negative side effects.
3) Norepinephrine boosts the signal quality of synaptic transmission, while dopamine decreases the noise of neuron chatter. Together, they reduce ADHD and enhance learning.
4) Neurogenesis means we can grow neurons at any age. Stress, anxiety, and depression impair neurogenesis. But, exercise fights off those conditions and enhances neurogenesis.
5) A protein, brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), builds and maintain neurons and neuron networks. BDNF facilitates the learning process and is important for long-term memories. In addition to synaptic plasticity, BDNF also plays a role in energy metabolism. BDNF also ramps up serotonin levels that help with mood, depression, anxiety. And, exercise boosts BDNF levels.
6) An optimal exercise program combines a skill acquisition exercise and a aerobic one. Tennis and biking fits that. Skill exercise strengthens and expands neural networks. The more complex the movements the more complex the synaptic connections. Aerobic exercise enhances mood by boosting the levels of all three mentioned neurotransmitters.
7) You should vary the intensity of exercise. High intensity exercise boosts the human growth hormone (HGH) which also boosts BDNF. In combination, these are like a fountain of youth.
8) Doing squats can be as effective in boosting HGH levels as running hard for 30 minutes.
9) Paleolithic humans walked and ran 5 to 10 miles a day just to eat. Our sedentary lifestyle is not catered to our DNA, and explains the obesity crisis.
10) Active people reduce their cancer risk by 50%.
11) Every 50 minutes of weekly exercise correlates with a 50% drop in risk of depression.
12) Briskly walking 5 hours a week reduces the risk of gestational diabetes by 75%.
13) Women over 65 who remain physically active are 50% less likely to develop dementia.
14) Diabetes increases your risk of developing dementia by 65%. High cholesterol increases it by 43%. Exercise can assist with both conditions.
15) Exercise prevents inflammation that triggers the plaque accumulation in the brain that causes Alzheimer’s disease.
16) Among individuals over 75, the ones with higher blood glucose levels (but who were still not diabetic) had a 77% higher likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
17) Being overweight doubles the chances of developing dementia. And, when combined with high blood pressure and high cholesterol, the risk increases sixfold.
18) Exercise reduces the risk of colon cancer by 50%.