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Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain Paperback – Jan 1 2013

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; Reprint edition (Jan. 1 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316113514
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316113519
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.5 x 21 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 272 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #993 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"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 Hallowell Centers

"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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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell #1 HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on March 11 2008
Format: Hardcover
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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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Robert Morris HALL OF FAMETOP 10 REVIEWER on July 30 2008
Format: Hardcover
With Eric Hagerman, John Ratey has written a book in which he explains -- in layman's terms (to the extent that is possible) -- how physical exercise can "supercharge [provide a `spark' to] mental circuits to avoid or overcome stress, sharpen thinking, lift mood, increase memory...and much more." Obviously, these are all highly desirable results to achieve. Alas, many children as well as adults are out of (physical) shape, do not eat properly, and continue under severe stress to meet their obligations. The implications of what Ratey explains and recommends should be of special interest to young adults, their parents, school administrators, teachers, and coaches as well as to business executives who are responsible for the performance of those whom they supervise.

Here are some of the questions to which he responds:

What are some of the most common misconceptions about "the brain-body connection"?

What in fact is true?

How can aerobic exercise physically remodel our brains for peak performance?

Why is physical exercise the best defense against addiction, aggression, ADD, menopause, and even Alzheimer's?

What are the most significant revelations of a fitness program sponsored by the Naperville (IL) public school district in which more than 19,000 children participated?

Why should such a program (with necessary modifications) be made available to other school children?

In the absence of such a program, what can parents do to increase their children's physical exercise? What sacrifices (if any) must be made to accomplish that?

At a minimum, how frequently should we exercise...and for how long?

What are the benefits to be gained even from minimal exercise?
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mqry Armstrong on July 17 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
John Ratey brings us convincing and useful research findings about the absolute necessity for exercise in our lives. We have the same limbic system as our cavemen ancestors, he explains. Their brains and ours were designed to save us from attacks by wild animals. We, of course, experience stress from our jobs and our relationships. Fighting or fleeing is not a viable option.

The book is well organized, dealing with our ability to learn and achieve academically: to how we become depressed instead of acting out the fight or flight we need to respond to: to the connection between addiction and exercise.

This is a remarkable collection of wisdom. For example, older women who exercise are half as likely to develop dementia as their sedentary sisters. Chronic stress results in a whole bundle of illnesses. Staying well and keeping our brains sharp is a do-it-yourself project.

I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to live a healthier, more sane life.
Confessions of a Trauma Therapist: A Memoir of Healing and Transformation
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Kieran Fox on Nov. 9 2010
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book for my dad for Christmas a couple years ago, to encourage his New Year's resolutions regarding exercising more. But after the unwrapping I picked it up myself and was hooked.

I have always felt intuitively that the main thesis of this book is true, and lived by it, but I never had any real evidence for that belief and never thought of looking into it myself. It just seemed self-evident that exercise was a necessary and profitable thing to be doing, even as friends during exam-time would ask how I could possibly waste an hour at the gym with finals the next morning.

Well, the evidence is in (and has been for some time, it seems) and Ratey does a very admirable job of collecting much of it in one place, and explaining it all in way simple enough for absolutely anyone to understand. Yes, he oversimplifies greatly (brain-derived neurotrophic factor becomes 'Miracle-Gro for your brain'), but then that's the idea, to get this message out and increase people's awareness of just how beneficial exercise is for the brain/mind.

This message is examined from almost every conceivable angle, again, all in a very easily-comprehensible way. As I studied neuroscience in undergrad, I was astounded that none of this revolutionary information was being taught. Whether you look at grades, motivation, depression scores, etc. on the behavioral level, or go down to the neural and genetic level in mice, looking at dendrites, BDNF, and so on, every measure suggests that exercise (cardiovascular mostly, but some evidence for strength training as well) has positive effects on mood, memory, motivation, intelligence (IQ) and so on and so forth. The list goes on.
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