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Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain

4.09  ·  Rating Details  ·  5,264 Ratings  ·  712 Reviews
Did you know that in a landmark study, aerobic exercise was shown to be as effective as antidepressants? That women who exercise, lower their chances of developing dementia by 50 percent? That a revolutionary fitness program helped put one U.S. school district of 19,000 kids first in the world in science? That, in fact, exercise sparks new brain-cell growth? The evidence i ...more
Audio CD, 0 pages
Published August 3rd 2009 by Your Coach In A Box (first published January 1st 2008)
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Aaron It's legit. Everything he talks about is backed by lots of research.
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Dec 04, 2013 Ensiform rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, work
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
Clif Hostetler
Exercise is the single most powerful tool available to optimize brain function. That is the message from this book. Everybody knows that exercise creates a fit body, but what many forget is that the brain is part of the body too. Modern science has been able to learn much about how the brain works, and has even tracked neurogenesis (i.e. new cell growth) in the brain in response to exercise. The old saying, "Once your brain cells die, they can’t grow back," is a myth.

This book has chapters about
Oct 07, 2010 Hans rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Dec 29, 2008 Nicole rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 I guess it had a bigger positive impact on my life than most things I read.
Apr 14, 2009 Niki rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was well written and extremely persuasive. It got me back into fitness again & I'm thankful.
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
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
Nancy Burns
May 09, 2015 Nancy Burns rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Do you want a healthy brain?
.."pump up the heart rate"!

Here is my review:
Sambasivam Mani
Mar 27, 2015 Sambasivam Mani rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Must-Read book. At this modern age bad habits and laziness are killing people. To save lives and have a healthy life exercise is must. This book reveals the secret that exercise will strengthen our brain and body together.

People who are addicted to bad habits get addicted to it because they need the pleasure to overcome depression, anger, stress and pain. This book tells us how to avoid bad habits and start exercising. People who thinks that exercise is an additional work or burden should read
Apr 09, 2012 Alex rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 24, 2015 Shaw rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely loved this. Amazing information on fitness and American education. Listening to the miracle of feel good hormones and neurotransmitters that fire during exercise gave me the intellectual understanding of exercise I needed to help motivate me to be consistent in my fitness schedule. Learn faster, learn better, reverse aging, decrease anxiety, get happy, read Spark.
Mar 24, 2015 Vivian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you're the kind of person who needs to be intellectually convinced by mountains of research to confirm something you already know - as I am - and you're trying desperately to start a regular exercise habit - as I am - you need to run and get this book, like, yesterday. I'm actually very serious: I have a very athletic husband, who is the epitome of healthy living, as an example in front of me every day; I've read tons of articles about the benefits of exercise, and have known for practically ...more
David Everling
Apr 05, 2011 David Everling rated it really liked it
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
Nov 08, 2009 Jack rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 27, 2009 Cj rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 08, 2012 Rebecca rated it liked it
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
Apr 04, 2013 Stacy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 21, 2010 David rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Angela Coan
Feb 01, 2016 Angela Coan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
I don't often recommend books to large groups of people, but this book has information about something crucial to daily life! And it applies to everyone. Are you human and alive? This books applies.

The book can be of tremendous help to get people motivated to exercise, but it also gives understanding about how exercise impacts our brain and overall health. The research runs the gamut from fetal development to old age, and many disorders such as depression, anxiety, ADD/ADHD.

There is so much sc
Rolando Gill
Jun 29, 2013 Rolando Gill rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jan 29, 2015 Andrea rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book! It changes the way you think about exercise. Not only is exercise good for your body, it does amazing things for your brain. Definitely recommend this book!
Roma Jones
I was interested in the science behind this idea, and it did motivate me to get off my butt, But I quickly became bored due to the repetitivness of the information and had to skim the rest
Mario Tomic
Sep 14, 2015 Mario Tomic rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The big idea of the book is very simple: Physical activity is a necessary part of our evolution to develop ourselves both physically and mentally. John Ratey, the author, starts the book with a hypothesis that we have developed superior brains because we're creatures that need to move to find food. Adding on to that exercise keeps us sharp through several neuro-pathways that helps us learn the best ways to manage our food, predict how our environments work and remember all of this for the future ...more
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
Marcelo Bahia
Jan 02, 2015 Marcelo Bahia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cognitive, health, sports
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
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
Dec 12, 2015 Clint rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
A pretty neat book about the effects of exercise, mostly aerobic exercise, on the brain and body overall. It was a little heavy on the scientific terminology for a pop science book, but overall it was readable and actually kind of uplifting. Makes me want to go replace my shitty old running shoes and hit the pavement.
Feb 02, 2009 Erinn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 20, 2012 lana rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This codifies a lot of what I've personally noticed, but it's too easy to just gloss over the science jargon, and when you do that it's hard I critically assess his claims.

As others have noticed, aerobic exercise-and specifically running- is his heavy recommendation. He does say that any aerobic exercise that elevates the heart rate for a sustained period will do. Now, I hate aerobic exercise. I hate running. I do lift weights, and I was hoping that the benefits would be the same, but there are
Mar 16, 2014 Aimee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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Brain Science Pod...: * BSP 111 Exercise and the Brain 5 33 Nov 20, 2014 11:59AM  
FULL Creative Lib...: Spark 1 6 Mar 05, 2014 01:51PM  
  • The First 20 Minutes: Surprising Science Reveals How We Can: Exercise Better, Train Smarter, Live Longer
  • The Mindful Brain: Reflection and Attunement in the Cultivation of Well-Being
  • The Spectrum: A Scientifically Proven Program to Feel Better, Live Longer, Lose Weight, and Gain Health
  • Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long
  • The Body Has a Mind of Its Own: How Body Maps in Your Brain Help You Do (Almost) Everything Better
  • Delivered from Distraction: Getting the Most out of Life with Attention Deficit Disorder
  • Smart Thinking: Three Essential Keys to Solve Problems, Innovate, and Get Things Done
  • Unstuff Your Life!: Kick the Clutter Habit and Completely Organize Your Life for Good
  • Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn
  • The Ravenous Brain: How the New Science of Consciousness Explains Our Insatiable Search for Meaning
  • Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain: How a New Science Reveals Our Extraordinary Potential to Transform Ourselves
  • Rewire Your Brain: Think Your Way to a Better Life
  • The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who've Lived the Longest
  • Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning
  • Making a Good Brain Great: The Amen Clinic Program for Achieving and Sustaining Optimal Mental Performance
  • The Accidental Mind: How Brain Evolution Has Given Us Love, Memory, Dreams, and God
  • Healthy at 100: The Scientifically Proven Secrets of the World's Healthiest and Longest-Lived Peoples
  • Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul
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...

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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.” 6 likes
“Cognitive flexibility is an important executive function that reflects our ability to shift thinking and to produce a steady flow of creative thoughts and answers as opposed to a regurgitation of the usual responses. The trait correlates with high-performance levels in intellectually demanding jobs. So if you have an important afternoon brainstorming session scheduled, going for a short, intense run during lunchtime is a smart idea.” 4 likes
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