Article Dr. Ratey explores scientific grounds to explain why exercise is the single most effective tool to improve the brain. 0 2022 Life coaching https://www.lifecoachhub.com/img/uploads/articles/thumbs/1154_1664428395.jpg Wellness coaching life coaching Lifecoachhub Pty Ltd LifeCoachHub

Spark Book Review : The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain

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Spark book review, book authored by John Ratey, exercise, coaching tip

People exercise to be physically stronger. Not just that, exercise can also change the physique. But the benefits of exercise aren’t only physical; exercise can impact your brain in ways you don’t even imagine! 

Moving around and working up a sweat makes your heart pound, and every time you increase your heart rate, you burn extra calories, put off some steam, boost your mood, and improve your memory. Exercise optimizes our brains to achieve peak performance. 

John J. Ratey, M.D. journeys through the mind-body connection and takes us along with him in his book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. Sure, we all know that exercising is beneficial for our health and our bodies, but how much do we know about the brain and its relationship with exercise? The contents of his book reveal bewildering facts about exercise and how it positively affects us.

Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain

According to John Ratey, many psychiatrists are still dragging their feet on integrating the health benefits of exercise into their treatment, even in the face of overwhelming positive evidence. This makes it even more important to publicize this evidence so the general public can benefit from it, and this book does a good job of doing just that.

Ratey integrates numerous scientific studies with his own personal experiences and case studies to create an argument that is both personal and well-supported. From the introductory study of a school district in the US that has had incredible success with its everyday exercise program (just 3% of students are overweight and the district has the highest test scores IN THE WORLD) to studies on exercise in depressed individuals, the evidence clearly shows the effect exercise has on both intelligence and mood.

walking, jogging, exercise, Spark book review, John Ratey, coaching tip

Chapter by Chapter Summary of Spark

The first two chapters of the book fight the stereotype of the dumb jock, focusing on how exercise makes the body release chemicals that make new brain cells grow, and how combining aerobic activity with some kind of exercise or sport that requires coordination can help those new brain cells form connections. It quotes several studies in which exercising before a memorization task helps improve retention.

The third chapter contains an excellent review of stress and how it affects the body and mind. Exercise, though itself stressful, is a controllable form of acute stress, and thus helps maintain cells and muscle fibers, as well as regulate important hormones. It has also been shown to reverse some of the negative long-term effects of stress.

The middle third of the book devotes a chapter to various ailments, including depression and addiction, and describes how exercise can help to rebalance whatever system is failing in each. My main complaint about the book is that this section gets a bit repetitive because many of the studies are so similar. It felt like the chapter on attention deficit disorder could simply have said “Pretty much everything I said about exercise and depression works here as well.” But, that’s how science works… you have to have evidence for everything.

Finally, the book wraps up with specific chapters on exercising for women and in old age, with the conclusion again being that exercise will balance your hormone levels and maintain neurons. Although it’s difficult to recommend a specific exercise regimen to everyone, Ratey does a good job of detailing what various types of exercise will do and how they can help.

Spark book review, exercise makes the body release chemicals that make new brain cells grow, coaching tip

Key Takeaways from Spark

John Ratey divulges the many good things exercise, especially cardio-intensive activities such as running and biking, can do to us in his book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. 

He explored the lengths of many interviews, fieldwork as a clinical researcher, and in-depth review of the most up-to-date scientific pieces of evidence from credible sources to present valuable knowledge. He comes to the conclusion that regular, moderate-to-high intensity cardio permanently enhances not only physical health but also mental and psychological health too. Here are the other lessons you’ll learn in this book:

1. Exercise is the next best thing to improve your brain function.

Just like all the other muscles in the body that you work out when exercising, your brain also reaps its benefits. And your brain gets stronger the more you use it.

According to German researchers mentioned in the book, interval training enhances learning capacity. But what is interval training? Researchers, coaches, and athletes have different ideas and opinions on interval training. Nonetheless, it generally only pertains to alternating bouts of exercise and recovery (Daniels & Scardina, 1984). 

Back in the German study, the rate of vocabulary learning of the participants increased by 20% as a result of three-minute sprints done twice during a 40-minute treadmill run. So you see, not only consistent exercising gives plenty of benefits, even interval activities can bring about the same positive changes in your brain. 

Exercise helps improve learning in three ways:

  • Exercise adjusts your mindset to increase concentration and motivation.

  • Your nerve cells bind more to one another which is the biological foundation for memory retention and learning.

  • Your hippocampus stem cells are pushed to produce new nerve cells.

Did you know? While you can't learn in the middle of doing intense exercise, immediately afterward, you can improve your vocabulary memorization speed by 20%, Spark book review, coaching tip

2. Exercise helps you become more sociable.

Do you ever have times when you feel dreadful or lazy because you had to go to the gym, but then you decide to go, and after working out, you feel much better? Here’s why. When we work out, our body releases endorphins which makes people happier. 

So when we become more physically active, our confidence builds up which allows us to converse with other people freely and optimistically. In turn, we become more socially active or more present in social situations. Exercise gives us vigor and a motivating force that are important factors in creating and maintaining social bonds.


When we work out, our body releases endorphins which makes people happier. So when we become more physically active, our confidence builds up which allows us to converse with other people freely and optimistically.


3. Exercise calms you down.

Regular exercise also aids in lowering anxiety levels in the general population. It reduces stress and helps you become calmer because you become more active, you also lower your adrenaline and cortisol which are stress hormones. And as mentioned, you produce more endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin which all play a role in elevating your general mood. Dopamine helps you become more attentive and motivated while serotonin raises your self-esteem.

On top of all these, exercise can also help battle depression and combat addictions. It reduces the desire to smoke, a harmful addiction, through lessening physical irritation which is a common side effect of smoking withdrawal. Exercise can prolong the time until the next smoke by two to three times and stave off cravings for fifty minutes.

4. Exercise sharpens your focus. 

At the cellular level, exercise remodels the brain to increase its capacity to register and process new information. Because exercise increases endorphins, it allows the improvement of brain function. You get to concentrate more and disregard any form of distraction. You also improve your memory and remember more things when you’re physically active.


Exercise remodels the brain to increase its capacity to register and process new information. Because exercise increases endorphins, it allows the improvement of brain function.


5. Exercise helps prolong the life

Your brain will eventually decay if you won’t allow it to grow and improve. Since exercise reduces the normal stress threshold, it becomes one of the few best methods to combat aging. So perhaps, you can say, exercise is PRO-LIFE. 

Did you know regular exercise is what kept the author's mother alive and well into her late 80s. And all it took was speed walking, Spark book review, coaching tip

The health of your brain can impact many bodily functions and ultimately, the way you live your life. Through exercise, you can do wonders for your mind and body including amazing improvements in your learning abilities, attentiveness, and sociable skills. Dr. John Ratey encourages us all to maintain our physical well-being and make it one of our top priorities because exercise and the brain are much more closely related than we think. With this, it is important to engage in exercise or any form of physical activity every day.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the effects of exercise, or who just needs a little extra motivation to get off the couch, because Ratey’s enthusiasm and practical evidence will both enlighten and motivate you. Unfortunately, he doesn’t list his references at the end, so anyone looking to check his arguments will have to search for the studies he mentions. For this reason, and because of the repetition in the middle, I give the book four stars out of five.


Through exercise, you can do wonders for your mind and body including amazing improvements in your learning abilities, attentiveness, and sociable skills. Dr. John Ratey encourages us all to maintain our physical well-being and make it one of our top priorities because exercise and the brain are much more closely related than we think.


FAQs

1. What is the main idea in the book Spark?

Exercise can have extensive positive effects on our physical and mental health. In fact, there is a very strong connection found between our minds and bodies. 

In Spark, Dr. John Ratey tackles the complexity and significance of the mind-body connection supported by scientific pieces of evidence. Exercise can help improve our mood, reduce stress, sharpen our focus, combat addiction and unhealthy conditions, and even prolong our lives.

Spark is the first book ever to thoroughly cover the relationship between exercise and the brain. After this book, you might not look at morning runs the same way again!

2. Who wrote the book Spark?

John Joseph Ratey, M.D. is an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. The works Driven to Distraction, Answers to Distraction, and Delivered from Distraction are co-authored by him and Edward Hallowell.

3. What is the link between exercise and the brain?

Aerobic exercises physically remodel our brains for maximum productivity; it’s not just a myth, it’s backed by science. According to Dr. Ratey in his book, exercising impacts your brain’s circuits, lowers muscle tension, and boosts dopamine and serotonin which improves your mood


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