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Star Star Star Star Star
The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain
by John J. Ratey, MD and Eric Hagerman
Non-Fiction - Health - Fitness
304 Pages
Reviewed on 09/01/2009

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Book Review
Spark is an emphasis on the benefits exercise has on our mind. He discusses the correlation between exercise and good grades in high school. With adequate exercise student improve academic performance, alertness, attention and motivation.

Exercise helps with Alzheimer’s, ADD, depression and aggression. Ratey discusses the importance of movement. He feels that students do better academically when they exercise. They are more alert, attentive and motivated. He also feels exercise affects the way we age.

I found this book very hopeful. Alzheimer’s is rampant in my family and Spark offers much encouragement.


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A. B. Lopez
Excellent ! Dr.J.Ratey's book lays out the "state of the science" regarding exercise and brain function,in a clear,lucid,and engaging way.We have evolved to be active,and need to,literally,"move" our minds.
I'm a clinical psychiatrist,and I'm recommending this book to all my patients !(and friends,family,and colleagues).


Patricia O'Brien
we need yet another reason to exercise... As the Director of Lifelong Fitness Alliance, an organization that has been advocating physical activity for 29 years, I'm well aware of the benefits of exercise. Yet this inspirational book, written in a lively style and loaded with entertaining and provocative case studies, scientific evidence and practical information, not only provides another great reason to incorporate physical activity into your life. It also provides an individualized formula to make your exercise routine have an impact on your brain, improving function and alleviating the negative effects of depression, anxiety, stress and hormonal fluctuation among others. I will be purchasing this book for both my college-aged children, and I would recommend it to anyone who has a reason to sharpen their mental capacity.


Stephen F. Milioti
As someone who works from home, I got this book shortly after my 30th birthday came and went, and I was still moving slowly on my resolution to exercise more. To that end, this book was the kick in the backside - literally - that I needed to get up and moving more.

I'm glad I bought this instead of buying a typical how-to exercise book with a shirtless guy on the cover - rather than filling your head with inane tricep curls and painful ab crunchers, it focuses on keeping things simple, just getting up and moving. And it explains the science behind it all: As a pretty analytical person I need to know HOW things happen - how does a plane get up off the ground, how does the stock market work, and now, how my brain and body are interconnected. This book makes me interested because it explains the how and why, rather than just preaching and shouting.

But, though there's hard science at every turn here, the writing is extremely coherent and understandable to a non-physics-major like me. The tone is accessible and encouraging, while being substantial and authoritative.

Before you go out and get an armful of fitness or exercise books, this one is required reading, because it lays down the set of fundamentals and facts that will inspire you to get moving. Highly recommended!


Joseph E. Herzog
This is a book that every educator, every teacher, every parent, every school board member and administrator AND every student should read.

It's about time that we became cognizant of how learning takes place neurologically and build teaching around the science. 5,000 years ago, the Greeks knew that mind and body were one and that exercise was wholly integrated with "learning."

Finally we have the research to put the science into education and get the politics out. Kudos to Dr. John Ratey for writing the most meaningful and important book in American education.


K. Daley
In the interest of full disclosure, I will admit that I am a doctoral candidate in health psychology who is studying cardiovascular exercise as a viable treatment for comorbid emotional and physical disorders...
that being said, I think that everyone should read this book.

For a long time, the general public has minimized the beneficial effects of exercise and has consistently cut physical activity from school curricula. As we become more and more inactive, and consume much more calorie-dense food, our bodies are demonstrating the effects of physiologic and psychological stress. Dr. Ratey's writing style is accessible to all, and breaks down current research into themes and results that are easily understood. It is my hope that writings such as these will revolutionize the American approach to health, which currently seems to rely on purely pharmaceutical interventions. The ideas suggested in this book really provide a strong basis for the effects of exercise that we had already suspected, and packages it in a manner that will be relevant to people in all walks of life.


Claudine N. Grange
I had the good fortune to hear Dr. John Ratey lecture on his new book Spark. I got a copy right away. I am a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner and know the benefits of exercize; now we have some solid proof. Us health providers have to inspire people to move. As far as I'm concerned activity is the best way to mental health. Anyway John Ratey has inspired me and I thank him for this valid research and commitment to exercize as a way to good health. Any t-shirts available yet?...I dig that running stick figure.

Claudine Grange, APRN
Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
Arundel, Maine


Jackie Keyser
This book has really gotten me and my family off the couch. It's so inspiring. I hadn't realized that exercise can promote brain-cell growth--the implications of this are huge. Filled with easy-to-understand and fascinating science as well as ideas on how to exercise, this one is a must-read.


Barbara Freethy
Finally, a solution to the culture-wide epidemic of stress and learning problems that is 100% healthy, involves no medication and is completely free and accessible to everyone.

So many of us, whether parent or professional, look with alarm at the current state of our nation's youth in regard to rising obesity, decreased emphasis on outdoor play, and over-use of "screen time" on computers, video games and television. As a clinician who has worked with children for 35 years, I am concerned about the marked increased in the frequency of learning problems, attention deficits, anxiety, depression, lagging social thinking skills, and explosive behaviors.

Dr. Ratey provides a sound explanation of how unhealthy diet and
lack of movement impairs memory and learning. He goes on to
show how exercise improves attention, motivation, mood, and memory while decreasing anxiety, impulsivity and distractibility. Dr. Ratey gives us hope for a future with less dependence on medicating our children and more emphasis on supporting today's youth with the "food" they need to grow into healthier, more balanced young adults. SPARK is a must read for all!

Barbara Baum Freethy, M.Ed.
Touchstone Psychotherapy Assc.
Portland, Maine


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.


steven langston
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.
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