Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John J. Ratey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Great book that delivers exactly what its title promises. If you're looking for a book that's light on the science, this isn't it. However, if you're curious to know exactly what's going on in the brain when we engage in exercise, as well as the myriad benefits that come along with these neurological changes, then this book is chock full of illuminating information.
Ratey does a great job of illustrating from the outset that the brain and the body work in tandem, and that what's good for one is good for the other. Exercise is as good for the brain as it is for the body. Using this knowledge as a foundation, Ratey presents us with scientific evidence showing how the neurological changes that occur with exercise have benefits for learning, memory, attention, the ability to handle stress, anxiety, depression, the ability to fight addiction, women's hormones, and the way we age. If you're skeptical about the usefulness of exercise beyond its ability to affect physique, Ratey presents plenty of proof that it is exponentially more beneficial than many realize.
I loved that the first chapter didn't immediately hit the reader with the neuroscience. Instead, the book begins with a heartwarming and inspiring case study of a school program that improved students' grades, test scores, social skills and emotional wellness through exercise. While the rest of the book provides a lot of fascinating studies and sympathetic anecdotes, I felt that the beginning chapter was the most powerful. It draws you into the book with the subtle reminder of the power of exercise in shaping the bodies and minds of the future.
If you're into neuroscience, health, medicine, or exercise science, I believe that this book is absolutely worth the read. However, I do wish that more of the presented information was more accessible. I can see how some readers may find the book to be too jargon-y, which is a shame because just about everyone can benefit from its contents. This information is powerful and holds the potential to be empowering for anyone actively seeking to improve their life.
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Niv Mullings is a writer, poet, and plant-based health coach hailing from The Boogie Down Bronx.