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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

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  12,758 ratings  ·  1,409 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
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published January 10th 2008 by Little, Brown Spark (first published January 1st 2008)
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Bill Yeadon The book does have some very basic information about how much and how long you should exercise at an aerobic level. He spends a lot of time on differe…moreThe book does have some very basic information about how much and how long you should exercise at an aerobic level. He spends a lot of time on different areas where people can benefit such as addition, pregnancy, disease prevention and especially how it can replace many of the antidepressants such as Prozac. The book is technical in many places but most enjoyable.
Stuart Black Legitimate. I suspect some bias on the part of the author when choosing which studies to cite (informally) in the book, but as a student of medicine I…moreLegitimate. I suspect some bias on the part of the author when choosing which studies to cite (informally) in the book, but as a student of medicine I can, to a reasonable degree, certify that the science is all sound. Also, the logical and pragmatic layman would, I'm quite sure, agree with the content of the book; it doesn't request or require any leaps of faith by the reader in order for her to fully engage and sympathise with the overall notion that exercise is positive for the brain in the numerous ways proposed.(less)

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Clif Hostetler
Jan 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 27, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Dr. Appu Sasidharan

(Throwback Review) If you are a person who wants to exercise daily but unfortunately procrastinates it every time, this is the best book you can read. It will motivate you to exercise regularly by telling you all advantages of doing exercise in the best possible manner with the help of adequate scientific data from multiple research studies. In some areas, we can even see the author using philosophical musings to convince us regarding it.
"What makes aerobic exercise so powerful is t
Dec 28, 2008 rated it liked it
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.
Mar 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Now, it is a universal fact that exercise is good for you. It’s been said and done so what’s so different about this book? Well, 'Spark' dives deeper and attempts to find out the effect of exercise on the brain. The book provides a detailed explanation of how different parts of the brain work on a biological level to carry out the everyday functions and what part of the brain is responsible for different tasks. We get to learn how the brain is able to function at a cellular level like how the ne ...more
Oct 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This book was well written and extremely persuasive. It got me back into fitness again & I'm thankful. ...more
Sep 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Mario Tomic
Jul 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Sambasivam Mani
Jan 30, 2015 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
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Oct 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Bianca A.
Jan 04, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2021, speed-read
First published in 2008 by PhD and M.D. John J. Ratey, associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and author of many other awesome books.
I enjoyed reading in detail about what goes on in the brain during various kinds of exercises performed regularly, as well as the overall body benefits. The preventive effects of neural degeneration have been outstanding. Exercise helps with alleviating the effects of stress, it helps with focus and with curbing withdrawal effects of a
Aug 02, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  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
Mar 15, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
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
Mar 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, 2017
Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John J. Ratey takes a fascinating look at the relationship between exercise and brain function. Citing numerous scientific studies as well as various anecdotal stories, Ratey looks at the benefits of exercise relative to learning, stress, anxiety, depression, attention deficit, hormonal changes, and aging. Anyone looking for some motivation to exercise or to improve their consistency is certain to find something in the text. Most ...more
Jan 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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 22, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Great book that delivers exactly what its title promises. If you're looking for a book that's light on the science, this isn't it. However, if you're curious to know exactly what's going on in the brain when we engage in exercise, as well as the myriad benefits that come along with these neurological changes, then this book is chock full of illuminating information.

Ratey does a great job of illustrating from the outset that the brain and the body work in tandem, and that what's good for one is
May 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Move!! Exercise to be more productive, happier and learn more. In my opinion a must read.

John Ratey is clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and this is basically his research paper on how exercise shapes our brain and makes us better learners, reduces stress and anxiety, may help with addictions, attention deficits and age related decline.

After a quite engaging opening story, about how exercise positively influences students at schools, the rest of the book is really dense
Anna Carr
May 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: how-to
4* to this book for making me run in the morning. Yes, (nearly) every day.

I used to find it extremely boring and exhausting in the past and, to tell the truth, I still do. But now I do it with a sense of mission to rewire the brain. The thing is that I am already quite sporty and I understand the importance of getting to the gym at least 3 times a week (yes, that often). But after this book, I also understood that exercise could be a kind of replacement therapy for a great many things that happe
David “Skip” 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
Jun 04, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2013
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
Mar 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a book assigned for the kid's phys ed class in high school. I pre-read it as I tend to pre-read all her assigned books's gotten us up and moving! Lots of why's and how's here, and like my general unease that we're not evolved enough to eat processed food, we're also not evolved enough to be as sedentary as we are. We're long-distance runners trapped in our cars, on our work computers, and on our tv-watching's no wonder why our lifestyle slowly, painfully, kills us. ...more
Nov 24, 2019 rated it liked it
This book argues that aerobic exercise is one of the most fundamental things one can do to improve one's moods and cognition. It is a nice and refreshing read during a time where pharmacy, pill based therapy, is often over used putting life style change by the way side. The author, a medical doctor, surveys a series of topics from the improvement of kids tests from physical fitness, the decrease in symptoms of stress, anxiety, depression, sickness in aging can result from a regimented exercise r ...more
Dec 07, 2013 rated it did not like it
Let me save you time and money: if you exercise, your brain will benefit. That's it. That's all you need to know and you don't need to listen to the horrible narrator drone on with the poorly written book. I want my money and time back, and I rarely feel that way. ...more
Roma Jones
Nov 14, 2014 rated it liked it
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
Aug 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio
Informative and motivational. There is so much good that exercise can do for a person, both physically (of course) and mentally; both immediately and over time. I didn't understand all the neurology mentioned in this book, but the author was good at clearly summarizing the scientific findings. This book has been an excellent motivator for me (I'm the girl who took a full load of AP classes and music electives in high school so I could get out of that extra semester of PE!); I don't need to be th ...more
Sep 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 08, 2009 rated it it was ok
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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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

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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.” 18 likes
“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. —Plato” 17 likes
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