Manual Spark: How exercise will improve the performance of your brain

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On your shorter, high-intensity days, add some form of strength or resistance training to build muscles, strengthen bones, and protect joints do three sets of your exercises at weights that allows you to do repetitions in each set. Make efforts to mix in more complex activities that will build skills, challenge the brain, and help you stay agile -- for example rock climbing, martial arts, gymnastics, dance, yoga, pilates, or balance drills.

Racket sports are especially great because they simultaneously tax the cardiovascular system and the brain. According to Ratey, "The combination of challenging the brain and body has a greater positive impact than aerobic exercise alone. Overall, Ratey's advice for people is to "get fit and then continue challenging themselves. Exercise is incredibly powerful for both the mind and body.

We're awake for at least 16 hours each day. Spending just one of those hours or even half an hour exercising will be the most important thing you do all day! Follow Andrew Merle on Twitter. Follow Andrew Merle on Medium. I write about good habits for happiness, health, productivity, and success. News U. HuffPost Personal Video Horoscopes. Newsletters Coupons. Follow Us.

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Discover the Impact of Exercise

What if there was one habit that could achieve all of the following:. Exercise makes proteins that fix the damage and delay the process. It lifts your mood. More neurotransmitters, neurotrophins, and connectivity shore up the hippocampus against the atrophy associated with depression and anxiety. And a number of studies have shown that keeping our mood up reduces our chances of developing dementia.

The evidence applies not only to clinical depression but also to general attitude. Staying mobile also allows us to stay involved, keep up with people, and make new friends; social connections are important in elevating and sustaining mood. It boosts in immune system. Stress and age depress the immune response, and exercise strengthens it directly in two important ways. Antibodies attack bacterial and viral infections, and having more T cells make the body more alert to the development of conditions such a s cancer.

Population studies bear this out: The most consistent risk factor for cancer is lack of activity. Those who are physically active, for instance, have a 50 percent lower chance of developing colon cancer. Exercise brings the immune system back into equilibrium so it can sop inflammation and combat disease. It fortifies your bones. Osteoporosis afflicts twenty million women and two million men in this country. More women every year die from hip fractures--a vulnerability of osteoporosis--than from breast cancer. Women reach peak bone mass at around thirty, and after that they lose about 1 percent a year until menopause, when the pace doubles.

Unless, that is, she takes calcium and vitamin D which comes free with ten minutes of morning sun a day and does some form of exercise or strength training to stress the bones. But as a young adult, weight training or any sport that involves running or jumping will counteract the natural loss. Even women in their nineties can improve their strength and prevent this heartbreaking disease. It boosts motivation.

The road to successful aging really begins with desire, because without the desire to stay engaged and active ad alive, people quickly fall into the death trap of being sedentary and solitary. One of the problems of getting older is the lack of challenges, but with exercise we can continually improve and push ourselves.

Exercise counteracts the natural decline of dopamine, the key neurotransmitter in the motivation and motor systems. They require constant self-monitoring and the motivation to improve. It fosters neuroplasticity. The best way to guard against neurodegenerative diseases is to build a strong brain.

Aerobic exercise accomplishes this by strengthening connections between your brain cells, creating more synapses to expand the web of connections, and spurring newly born stem cells to divide and become functional neurons in the hippocampus. Moving the body keeps the brain growing by elevating the supply of neurotrophic factors necessary for neuroplasticity and neurogenesis, which should otherwise naturally diminish with age.

The more robust the connections, the better prepared your brain will be to handle and damage it might experience. I don't think it's necessary to understand what all those terms mean, but if they bother you it's possible to Google them in most cases. The following quote is about the relationship between exercise and dementia. Population studies support the evidence that exercise holds off dementia. In one about people from Finland originally surveyed in the s and again 21 years later when they were between 65 and 79 years old. What's particularly interesting is that the relationship between regular activity and the onset of dementia was even more pronounced among those carrying the ApoE4 gene.

The researchers suggest that one explanation might be that their brains neuro-protective systems are naturally compromised by the gene variant making life style particularly important. The bottom line My only disappointment with the book is that it doesn't say that writing long book reviews is good for the brain. View all 17 comments. Jul 27, Ensiform 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.

Optimizing your Brain through Exercise

Therefore, Ratey argues, daily sustained aerobic exercise is a sure cure-all for depression, ADHD, 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. Therefore, Ratey argues, daily sustained aerobic exercise is a sure cure-all for depression, ADHD, the ravages of aging, raging hormones in menopausal women, addiction, phobias, etc. He makes his point with study after study, but this certainly could have been a more readable book.

Some of it could easily have been skipped to no detriment to the argument. Second, he then becomes repetitive. In each chapter, he explains how studies show that movement elevates these receptors, factors, and proteins; but really, once is enough. I think the book would have been improved had it had an introductory chapter that showed the hard science, then focused on case studies, for example, only making passing references to the science chapter as needed.

Instead, Ratey seems to think he must explain the biological processes each time. Third, he comes off as a zealot, and he has the unfortunate blinders of a zealot: he recommends, without fail, 45 minutes of sustained aerobic activity four days a week, two days of intensive aerobic activity, with focus on strength training, balance, new skill sets so karate or yoga rather than just running , and social interaction. The information is good and the science interesting, and Ratey may be perfectly reliable, but the tone of his book is something like that of a cult member or a car salesman.

View all 7 comments. Dec 28, Nicole rated it liked it. 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 exercising View 2 comments. Mar 24, Vivian 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 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 my whole life the importance of getting my body moving. But my mind resisted, and has just never really gotten with the program, so to speak Between another book I've read recently, about outwitting your resistant mind "Mini-Habits" , and this book, which goes into fascinating detail about the importance of exercise for absolutely everyone, I think I'm finally starting to be willing to "drink the Koolaid.

I could think of at least five family members, myself included, who could benefit from reading this book, and since every family has medical conditions that exercise could most certainly help, the information given here is worth reading by anyone who wants to be happier and, most importantly, healthier. I'm sold. Very highly recommended. Shelves: favorites , psychology , science , neuroscience , paradigm-shifting , sports. 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 Incredible read. To some extent the discoveries aren't surprising, but then it is always nice to actually have hard-evidence for something many people just intuited.

In the stages of evolution of the human body and mind we spent most of our time in that time period, with our bodies being finely tuned to that lifestyle. Now anytime we deviate too far from that active lifestyle and diet we start to experience the detrimental effects. Our sedentary easy-access-to-processed-food lifestyles are in direct contradiction to what our bodies were optimized for hence all the multitude of obvious ailments plaguing the industrialized world. The latest studies have revealed 1 Exercise helps produce the chemicals in the brain that grow new neurons in the brain, increasing our learning aptitude.

Cognitive therapy works on depression from the pre-frontal cortex down, and anti-depressant medication works from the brain stem up, exercise attacks depression from both the top and the bottom, as well as re-wiring and re-structuring the brain, causing long-term changes. As well as keeping their energy levels higher, improving their mood, and helping with their mental acuity. All in all, if there was one silver bullet that magically possessed all humans needed to thrive and be healthy both mentally and physically exercise would be it.

Our bodies and minds work best when they are moving. View 1 comment. Now, it is a universal fact that exercise is good for you. 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 Now, it is a universal fact that exercise is good for you. We get to learn how the brain is able to function at a cellular level like how the neurons communicate with each other to carry the signal that governs our actions.

It was interesting to know how the role of different neurotransmitters and how exercise helps to balance them out.

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The author cites numerous studies, experiments, and research done along with the examples from the life of his patients to present the various findings with a detailed explanation. This book is simple and straightforward.


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I went into it with a view to get to know more about the effects of exercise on the brain but learned a lot of important things about the working of the brain. For people out there, the points stated in the book about how exercise affects your learning and how it can improve your physical and mental health will certainly be a powerful motivator to get them to adopt the habit of exercising in their daily life. One of the most important things I learned from this book is how intimately our mind and body are connected and in order to function properly, we need to create an environment where everything is in balance.

Exercise is a readily available tool which we can utilize to enhance our life. You just need to take the first step and ignite that spark. Check out the detailed review View all 3 comments. Mar 01, Niki rated it it was amazing. This book was well written and extremely persuasive. 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 Must-Read book. People who thinks that exercise is an additional work or burden should read this book and understand the importance of exercise and how it can change their life. Physical activities change biological reaction in the body. People who do regular exercise stay on top on a country level - which includes technology, sports, etc.

Exercise is a preventive medicine as well as an antidote. Exercise particularly affects our executive function - planning, organization, initiate or delay a response, consequence evaluation, learning from mistake, maintain the focus, working memory and it helps us to access the front part of the brain prefrontal cortex - both right and left and increases the learning ability. Author of book John J. Ratey talks about a particular kind of Squat which helps to increase the learning ability by concentrating on prefrontal cortex.

Pain is related to depression and exercise is an antidepressant. Depression is defined by an absence of moving toward anything, and exercise is the way to divert those negative signals and trick the brain into coming out of hibernation. Inactivity kills muscles and brain. Learned the importance of mind-body connection and the idiom "Prevention is better than cure". Author talks about different factors which plays a major role in our body. Oct 29, Jenny Reading Envy rated it really liked it Shelves: science , read , librarianship. 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. In the body, having more receptors means better use of blood glucose and stronger cells. Best of all, the receptors stay there, which means the newfound efficiency gets built in.

If you exercise regularly, and the population of insulin receptors increases if there is a drop in blood sugar or blood flow, the cell will still be able to squeeze enough glucose out of the bloodstream to keep working. Also, exercise increases IGF-1, which helps insulin manage glucose levels. Sep 30, David rated it it was amazing Recommends it for: everyone with a brain. Shelves: fitness , psychology , health. 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 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.

This book is quite amazing--highly recommended! Jul 25, Mario Tomic 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 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.

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 use. In essence the connection between physical activity and learning is hardwired into the brain's circuitry. The book then dives into the damaging effects of the modern sedentary lifestyle and goes into dozens of studies presenting positive effects of exercise on learning, stress management, anxiety, depression, ADHD, addiction, hormonal changes, and aging related conditions such as Alzheimer's Disease.

Every single one of these conditions can be massively improved through exercise. One thing about this book that might put off a lot of people is that it's quite technical and goes into A LOT of studies and case studies. That makes the book a big harder to digest, and adding to that the whole message of the book which is basically "Exercise is good for you.

At the same time I really enjoyed the details, I think it does help the reader to "buy-in" more into exercise as a lifestyle as the benefits are enormous no matter what age, gender or lifestyle you have right now. I would definitely recommend this book if you're not sure what exercise does because you'll learn all the ways how it shapes your brain, and the benefits it has to living a happier and more fulfilled life.

Aug 03, Kate rated it really liked it Shelves: hypochondriana , desperate-attempts-at-self-improvem. 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. 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 Oh my god. The author covers, not only the brain physiology of exercise in relation to aging, depression, anxiety, ADHD and addictions, he also takes on the PE establishment--you know, those dodgeball-playing, drill-sargeant, sadistic bastards we used to have as gym teachers?

Apparently, there's a movement afoot to change the way gym is taught high time, I'd say that actually encourages physical fitness. What a concept. This is worth a read. Where's the nearest gym? 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! But, as a non-scientist, I felt bogged down by the loooong sections that tried to explain how certain processes work in the brain. 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 I'm torn on the number of stars I want to give this book. Even though I listened to every word, I pretty much still had to take his word for it, because I didn't understand what he was explaining. What I did like was the case studies, especially of the school in the first chapter. At this school, P.

As a slow and uncoordinated athlete he he I embrace that concept!! I am already in the habit of exercising nearly every day, as is my husband. I already encourage my kids to be active: I strictly limit the amount of time they spend on screens; they're all in sports on a weekly or more basis except for my youngest ; I take them swimming, to the park, on bike rides etc. I already knew exercise is good for the body and mind but this book takes it to the next level. Basically the author says exercising literally grows brain cells.

As you move your body, you move your brain connections. Exercise today puts a deposit in your brain's bank account for your golden years. I believe it and am even more motivated to stay active and to keep my kids active.


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  • I feel validated as a mom battling against screens for my kids. Sorry, kids! I'm on the primal bandwagon and this book fits right in with that lifestyle and backs it up with science that I don't understand! What stuck out to me the very most is the author's recommendation for certain sports for kids with ADHD. I have two kids diagnosed with ADHD. Two of the sports he recommends are gymnastics and karate. They picked their sports.

    Physical activity and the brain - John Ratey and 'Spark'

    I wonder if their brains knew something I didn't? I've heard before that exercise has the same effect on the brain as ADHD pills, but without the side effects. The author of this book agrees. Our son does fine without medication, but our daughter needs it to get through the school year. This summer I decided to not give her her pills, let her more active summer days be her drug and get rid of some of the side effects. I've been surprised by how well she's done. I'm a believer.

    If only the school days weren't so stressful on her.

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    I think our school does a great job with keeping the kids active, especially the last couple of years with a grant they won. I think I just wrote a long journal entry trying to pass as a book review. Mar 15, Alex 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 As a gym teacher, I am all about movement.

    The first chapter is the most engaging, where he shows how a few rogue school systems boosted test scores and lowered behavioral issues by introducing morning exercise programs.

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    One school scored in the top 5 in the world in math and science. The book gets progressively more boring. Each chapter following deals with a specific issue: depression, anxiety, ADHD, women's health, aging, etc. And in these chapters Ratey provides tons of research that explains, in maddeningly boring detail, what exactly exercise does to alleviate issue X. The main takeaway from Spark is that humans are creatures that are meant to move, and exercising balances us out in untold ways. It literally makes your brain a higher functioning organ, which makes your self a better self.

    So exercise.

    Spark how exercise will improve the performance of your brain

    There, I just saved you pages of reading. The other, less important takeaway was that humans do terrible, awful things to rats in the name of research. Poor rats. Ultimately, Spark is an important book, but one that is a slog unless this issue is one that fascinates you. May 18, Anna Carr rated it really liked it Shelves: how-to. 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 happen to the body and the brain. I get up and do a couple of laps around the lake near my house. I listen to noisy birds and croaky frogs. Finally, I don't go on Facebook first thing in the morning. Good things are happening already.

    Jan 31, Shaw 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 16, Deanna rated it it was amazing Shelves: , nonfiction. 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 of the focus relates to aerobic exercise, but other forms of exercise are also mentioned although they generally do not have as many scientific studies relating to them. The following are some general take always from the book: 1. Exercise improves both the body and the mind. Consistent exercise balances the chemistry of the brain. Exercise can actually build neural pathways reversing previous damage. There are far more good reasons to get off my butt and exercise than excuses not to do so.