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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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Top Customer Reviews
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. class with results several hours later. Scores were much higher right after the fitness class, findings which confirmed prior animal studies. Vigorous exercise makes your brain work much better especially right after the exercise but also longer term.
Naperville is an upper middle class community where many parents are scientists or engineers. Titusville, Pennsylvania is not. It is a failed factory town north of Pittsburgh where they copied the Naperville P.E. program beginning in 2000. Test scores went from below state average to 18 percent above. Since 2000 there has not been one fist fight in the junior high school. They were common before.
A share of the 2000 Nobel Prize was given to a Eric Kandel who demonstrated that practice (piano, vocabulary etc.) caused neurons to grow new branches and made branches get larger and better connected to adjacent neurons. A neuro-chemical, BDNF, has the same effect plus it causes new neurons to form from stem cells and protects neurons from decay and death. Exercise elevates BDNF levels throughout the brain. Other beneficial body and neuro-hormones also increase during exercise. In summary, exercise increases alertness and motivation; it encourages new connections between neurons; it causes new neurons to form. Adding a complexity to exercise with things such as yoga, Pilates, tennis, or martial arts is even more effective than simple exercise.
Exercise has been studied in patients with depression, stress, anxiety, attention deficit, addiction, menstrual and menopause problems. In general exercise has outperformed standard drug therapy in each of these conditions. That's not even taking into consideration the considerable side effects and cost of medications.
It's been well documented that Alzheimer's disease incidence is much lower in regular exercisers (50% less). Animal studies have shown exercise effects in models of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's where findings in the brain were significantly reversed. Mental exercise is equally important. An epidemiologic study in Minnesota has followed an order of nuns who stay very active. When one died at age 85 of a heart attack she was found to have severe Alzheimer's disease at postmortem exam. But she had tested in the 90% percentile on cognitive tests shortly before her death. Severe pathologic Alzheimer's due to her genetic makeup had no effect on her life. Billions of dollars are being spent on genetic and pharmaceutical cures for this devastating disease, but we already know that a combination of diet, exercise and vigorous mental activity will prevent it.
Ratey's exercise prescription:
Aerobic - Four times a week; 30-60 minutes at 60-70% of maximum heart rate (220 - age = theoretical maximum heart rate)
Strength - Twice a week with weights or resistance equipment.
Balance and Flexibility - Twice a week for thirty minutes. Yoga, Pilates, Martial arts, dance are possibilities.
In general more is better, harder is better, with another is better.
N.B. Interval Training (e.g. 30 second bursts of maximal effort several times during the aerobic sessions causes increase in human growth hormone, a valuable healing and anti-aging substance that normally is at low levels later in life. The author lost his `spare tire' a few weeks after adding this to his exercise regime. Nothing else had worked.)