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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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Description:

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 incontrovertible: Aerobic exercise physically remodels our brains for peak performance.

In SPARK, John J. Ratey, M.D., embarks upon a fascinating and entertaining journey through the mind-body connection, presenting startling research to prove that exercise is truly our best defense against everything from depression to ADD to addiction to aggression to menopause to Alzheimer's. Filled with amazing case studies (such as the revolutionary fitness program in Naperville, Illinois, which has put this school district of 19,000 kids first in the world of science test scores), SPARK is the first book to explore comprehensively the connection between exercise and the brain. It will change forever the way you think about your morning run---or, for that matter, simply the way you think

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Product Details:
Author: John J. Ratey
Hardcover: 294 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication Date: January 10, 2008
Language: English
ISBN: 0316113506
Product Length: 9.52 inches
Product Width: 6.36 inches
Product Height: 1.15 inches
Product Weight: 1.14 pounds
Package Length: 9.3 inches
Package Width: 6.2 inches
Package Height: 1.2 inches
Package Weight: 1.15 pounds
Average Customer Rating: based on 314 reviews
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Customer Reviews:
Average Customer Review:4.5 ( 314 customer reviews )
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

314 of 325 found the following review helpful:

5The Brain on Exercise  Jan 09, 2008
By steven langston "searcher"
This book explains in clear terms the role exercise plays in our mental processes. Moving our muscles produces proteins that play roles in our highest thought processes. Ratey says, "thinking is the internalization of movement." He illustrates this with the story of the sea squirt that hatches with a rudimentary spinal cord and 300 brain cells. It has only hours to find a spot of coral on which to put down roots or die. When it does put down roots, it eats its brain. According to Ratey only a moving animal needs a brain.

He begins with the value exercise has for the learning process in high school students: improved academic performance, alertness, attention and motivation.

He cites studies that say we can alter our mental states by physically moving. He said depression is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. He then presents a chapter where depression is relieved in case studies by exercise.

Among the areas Ratey covers are: stress, depression, ADD, and aging. This book is a great motivator for exercise.

However, Ratey's work was preceded by Glenn Doman's. Doman advocated exercise for brain injured children in the 1950s when the only 'treatment' was to institutionalize them. He later started a `super babies' program. Both the educational and medical establishments attacked and marginalized Doman's work.

154 of 158 found the following review helpful:

5Eye Opening  Jan 21, 2008
By Brunello
Our doctors always say to get more exercise. We always yawn and say of course; we've heard it all before. And then we are mediocre in our follow up. After reading Spark my entire viewpoint has changed. Exercise is a master key to brain functioning. Cholesterol and other system problems caused by lack of exercise are a bit ambiguous since we often can't directly feel them until we manifest some disease. Brain functioning is something else entirely. We can feel an almost immediate change after aerobic exercise. After reading Spark I definitely have become a six day a week exerciser. I need my brain functioning as well as possible, and the data in this book has made a believer out out of me.

45 of 47 found the following review helpful:

5A Fascinating, Enjoyable Read  Jun 01, 2010
By John V. Forrest "Jack Forrest"
John Ratey is a Harvard psychiatrist who subspecializes in the clinical use of exercise in mental diseases. In Spark he examines clinical and lab research in neuro-hormones, the chemical soup that determines how well our brain works.
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.)

146 of 165 found the following review helpful:

5The brain-exercise connection finally explained !!  Jan 09, 2008
By M. Bankal
Having ready 2 previous books by John : The users guide to brain and Driven
by distraction i was looking forward to reading SPARK. I was especially
interested in learning how John was going to tie exercise with the brain
functioning since i am a strong supporter of exercise and have experienced
its benefits. I knew before reading SPARK that exercise in some way does
make you feel better. But SPARK puts it in perspective from a scientific
point of view. The chapters on Stress and depression particularly caught my
attention since most of us struggle with these 2 issues at some point in
life and again most of us turn to popping a pill to deal with it. If its as
simple as getting on a treadmill or a bike and working out for 30-45
minutes without any side effects, then it seems only logical to do it. The
BDNF (Miracle-gro as John calls it) was a very interesting read for me. I
did had to go back and re-read certain topics as was it too much medical
terms to comprehend in one read. But once i got it, it became permanent and
that's the beauty of this book.
Its simple yet powerful in its message. The simplicity comes from the fact
that "you goto workout ". The power comes from the facts / data that proves
"why you goto workout". Once the reader ties the two together, the message
is very clear and hopefully will remain for a lifetime with the reader.
Today if you look around there is a lot of awareness among people about the
ill-effects of obesity. There are TV programs, advertisements, books about
why exercising is good for you and how it will help you be more fit. But
this is the only books that tells you that exercise will also make your
brain fit along with your body. The brain-body connection is important and
one cannot be ignored over the other.

47 of 51 found the following review helpful:

5Regular Aerobic Exercise Helps School Performance and Improves Mental Performance During Stress, Anxiety, Depression, and Aging  Mar 12, 2008
By Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!"
I've read a lot about the brain in the last decade, and I thought this book was the most helpful summary I've seen of what to do differently. The thinking person is the person who aerobically exercises regularly.

Spark is an excellent summary of the brain research during the last decade or so that has added to our knowledge of how regular aerobic exercise stimulates better and more effective mental activity. Dr. Ratey considers the impact of such exercise on school-age children . . . and adults with stress, anxiety, depression, attention deficits, hormonal changes, and aging bodies. He also recommends a general exercise regime that seems to optimize what we know today from these studies.

The essence of the book can be found in the observation that optimal brain functioning requires plenty of blood, the right nutrients, a balance of body chemicals designed to help the brain operate, and an ability to grow new cells and connections in the brain. Each of these elements is helped by regular aerobic exercise. The results are often measurable within a few weeks.

So if you thought that aerobic exercise was simply about looking and feeling good, you're wrong. It's also about thinking well and being able to learn. There are longevity and other quality of life benefits as well . . . including reduced incidence of disease and less chance of dementia.

The book also explores that you don't have to do a tremendous amount of exercise to get most of the benefits.

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