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

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4.03 of 5 stars 4.03  ·  rating details  ·  3,323 ratings  ·  551 reviews
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 i
...more
Audiobook, 9 pages
Published September 17th 2008 by Gildan Media Corp (first published January 1st 2008)
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Ensiform
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, ...more
Hans
Oct 07, 2010 Hans rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Students, People with ADHD, Depression, and those who want to live forever.
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 al
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Nicole
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 exercising...so I guess it had a bigger positive impact on my life than most things I read.
Jenny (Reading Envy)
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
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Niki
This book was well written and extremely persuasive. It got me back into fitness again & I'm thankful.
Kate
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
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Jack
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
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Cj
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 ...more
David Everling
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 itse ...more
Stacy
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 narr ...more
David
Sep 21, 2010 David rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone with a brain
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 ac ...more
Rolando Gill
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.
Angelique Scharine
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 m
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Marcelo
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 betw
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Alex
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 lo ...more
Kater Cheek
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 wou
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Rebecca
Aug 08, 2012 Rebecca rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Rebecca by: Liz
Shelves: audio-books
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 stil ...more
Erinn
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 progra ...more
Aimee
If you ever need a book to convince you of the importance of exercise and how it benefits the brain, this is a good one.
Lindsey
May 20, 2013 Lindsey rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: PE teachers, school administrators, anyone with any kind of psychological issues, doctors
Great summary of current research into effects of exercise on learning, dementia, psychological issues like addiction, anxiety, depression, etc. One of the main points of the books is that a little stress for your body is good; anything that makes it have to repair and rebuild itself keeps your cells strong and functioning well. Exercise, of course, is a form of stress. Mild calorie restriction is another. Constantly challenging your body, especially once you're past 30, is so necessary to keep ...more
Julie (julie37619)
My wonderful friend Kennedy at Always, Always Reading recommended this one to me way back in January when I posted about getting on track with exercise and dealing with depression. It's by John J. Ratey, who is a psychiatrist who specializes in research regarding the effect of exercise on neurochemistry and how exercise changes the physical and neurochemical composition of the brain. Basically, he is a genius. A genius who has done his homework. He covers pretty much every recent study done on t ...more
Katie
This book is all about how exercise beneficially affects the brain, in a lot of biological detail. I was so primed to like it, since I exercise more than necessary and wanted to hear lots of info about how I'm going to remain sharp and focused well into old age. And the book certainly did provide that conclusion, but what I didn't like was the lack of citations, notes or references to all the many scientific studies that were cited. Maybe I was missing something obvious (maybe somebody ripped al ...more
Michael
If you run, or think you might want to run. If you are interested in what exercise has to do with your mental state. Read this.


Publisher's Summary
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 swe
...more
Cara
Dec 28, 2011 Cara rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Cara by: Dani
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 r
...more
Sal Coraccio
Wonderfully informative and enlightening book! Some may find it somewhat technical, but I think it has to be. Surely even the level presented here is reduced significantly in depth.

The evidence is abundantly clear: exercise or suffer. Humans are evolved to move in order to find uncooperative sources of food - yet here we are surrounded by extreme convenience coupled with a lack of personal motility. No wonder we are fat and stupid.

More than an "eat healthy or get fat" message, the book shows th
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Angie
The first few chapters in this book begun as a delightful and insightful exploration into a high school that revolutionised the way they did exercise/gym class and the significant positive effects that had. I was delighted by the book in the first few chapters and excited to read the rest. but from then on i was very disappointed.

The author changed from laymens terms and delightful stories to prove his points to writing as if the book were an academic paper to be published in a neurological jour
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Dmitri
Ok, this book was amazing. It's written by the psychiatrist who, well, not exactly discovered Attention Deficit Disorder, but did a lot of work to get it accepted by the medical establishment, and popularized. This guy knows a LOT about brain chemistry and neuroscience.
The book focuses on an overview of research about the effects of exercise (mostly aerobic exercise, but also a tiny bit of balance/skills stuff like dancing) on various areas of brain chemistry. Specifically -- intelligence and f
...more
Eric
"... if you are in good shape, you may be able to learn and function more efficiently." This quote from "Spark" may sound hohum. But it comes from a hard scientist discussing results of his research on the effect of exercise on brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BNDF). BDNF, not really known 15 years ago, is now known to be present in the hippocampus, where it aids in the production, literally, of new brain cells.

You need to know this, not to mention a host of other connections between exercise
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Kennedy
This was a sale book on audible so I picked it up at Evan's urging. "You need to exercise more. Buy that one." And after reading Spark, I will definitely be exercising more.

Spark talks about how exercise improves your brain: helps learning, fights depression, even postpones dementia. Spark goes far beyond the idea of a runner's high and talks about what happens in the brain due to exercise. It was fascinating.

If you need motivation to exercise, Spark is going to give it to you. I listened to the
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Jennifer
Sep 27, 2011 Jennifer rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone on a health quest
Really good book with so much information. I listened to this in Audio book format and am very happy I did as I think the hard science would have scared me off if it were sitting in front of me in book form. (Sad - but honest.)

There were many things in here I heard that made me go "That's me!" or "Ahhhhhhh.... That makes so much sense!" and I spent HOURS talking to my partner in crime about what I had learned that day from my ipod. Once I got through some of the hard science and started trackin
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Brain Science Pod...: * BSP 111 Exercise and the Brain 5 18 Nov 20, 2014 11:59AM  
FULL Creative Lib...: Spark 1 3 Mar 05, 2014 01:51PM  
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  • Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone
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Dr. Ratey and Dr. Hallowell began studying ADHD in the 1980s and co-authored Driven to Distraction: Recognizing and Coping with Attention Deficit Disorder from Childhood through Adulthood (1994), the first in a series of books that demystify the disorder. Dr. Ratey also co-authored Shadow Syndromes (1997) with Catherine Johnson, PhD, in which he describes the phenomenon of milder forms of clinical ...more
More about John J. Ratey...
A User's Guide to the Brain: Perception, Attention, and the Four Theaters of the Brain Go Wild: Free Your Body and Mind from the Afflictions of Civilization Shadow Syndromes: The Mild Forms of Major Mental Disorders That Sabotage Us To Change A Mind: Parenting To Promote Maturity In Teenagers Designed To Adapt: Leading Healthcare In Challenging Times

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“At every level, from the microcellular to the psychological, exercise not only wards off the ill effects of chronic stress; it can also reverse them. Studies show that if researchers exercise rats that have been chronically stressed, that activity makes the hippocampus grow back to its preshriveled state. The mechanisms by which exercise changes how we think and feel are so much more effective than donuts, medicines, and wine. When you say you feel less stressed out after you go for a swim, or even a fast walk, you are.” 5 likes
“exercise is as effective as certain medications for treating anxiety and depression.” 1 likes
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