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Publisher's Summary

A groundbreaking and fascinating investigation into the transformative effects of exercise on the brain, from the bestselling author and renowned psychiatrist John J. Ratey, MD.

Did you know you can beat stress, lift your mood, fight memory loss, sharpen your intellect, and function better than ever simply by elevating your heart rate and breaking a sweat? The evidence is incontrovertible: Aerobic exercise physically remodels our brains for peak performance.

In Spark, John J. Ratey, M.D., embarks upon a fascinating and entertaining journey through the mind-body connection, presenting startling research to prove that exercise is truly our best defense against everything from depression to ADD to addiction to aggression to menopause to Alzheimer's. Filled with amazing case studies (such as the revolutionary fitness program in Naperville, Illinois, which has put this school district of 19,000 kids first in the world of science test scores), Spark is the first book to explore comprehensively the connection between exercise and the brain. It will change forever the way you think about your morning run---or, for that matter, simply the way you think.

©2008 John J. Ratey; (P)2008 Gildan Media Corp

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.3 out of 5.0
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Performance

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  • Overall

Spark

Inspiring, motivational, fascinating

As a nurse I've long known that exercise is good for us, but John Ratey reinforces why with plenty of terrific studies. The physiology is fascinating, the research current and all presented in a manner that we can apply to our every day lives. I highly recommend this book to all; those of us who already exercise and to those of us who need to.

53 of 54 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Roman
  • Saint-Petersburg, Russia
  • 12-17-09

Scientific and motivational

I find this book extremely useful. I prefer books that are scientifically strict and contain no pseudo-motivational bullshit. This book is a great example of how good material makes a great motivation itself.

I have no professional knowledge in medicine, yet still somehow the examples, terms and facts in the book are so really interesting. Yes, the author uses complicated terms quite often, but he really repeats them over and over and always explains briefly what they mean. If you're interested in a particular term, you can always google it and find out some more on the subject. But the book presents a great deal of fresh information, exciting studies and some personal stories. It covers aspects of exercising for different stages of life and genders. By reading it, you will not only understand how to take care of yourself, but how and why you should motivate other people to do exercises.

I'm a programmer and an entrepreneur and I really enjoy learning all the time and getting more knowledge. As well as I enjoy staying fit. But until I read this book, I couldn't mentally connect these two things. I've been lifting weights and doing my cardio for over 4 years now and I've always noticed how they make me feel better, but I didn't know why. And, sometimes the motivation for the workouts slipped away because I couldn't see the measurable results. Now, thanks to the book, I have another source of motivation, which is supported by hundreds of scientific studies and facts.

70 of 73 people found this review helpful

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  • Story

Interesting at first, but soon becomes repetitive

This book presents some scientific interesting data about the beneficial effects of exercise. However, the book should be treated more as a reference than as a work that you read (or listen to) from start to finish. The author addresses many different health problems, all of which are improved by exercise. After a while, the research findings start to become dull and repetitive. My advice is to read only the chapters that pertain to your particular health issues.

14 of 14 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • techchic
  • Grand Rapids, MI USA
  • 10-03-08

Loved this book!

I listened to this entire book in just a few days. it is interesting and informative and life changing! I have new motivation to exercise! I never thought about how exercise could affect my mind and happiness. I highly recommend. Wonderful!

55 of 58 people found this review helpful

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  • Tim
  • United States
  • 04-15-11

Being Disabled

I was born with Cerebral Palsy and confined in a wheelchair for all of my life. I workout at least 3-5 times a week in the gym for at least 90 minutes each day. I know for a fact that working out help me physically and mentally. This book is great. When I'm in the gym, I forget that I'm even disable. More people should workout and promote fitness.

53 of 56 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Excellent exercise motivator!

An excellent exercise motivator! This being a pop-science book it'll be most effective if you're a logically minded person or in need of some explicit reasons to overcome creeping apathy or procrastination. One of the best aspects of a book on exercise is that you can test and verify the essential ideas as they relate to your own experience; I often listened to the audiobook while jogging or at the gym. Knowing more about how something you're doing is good for you is an additional reward in itself, and for me this encapsulates the main value of reading this book.

The book is of course pro-exercise throughout its illustrative anecdotes and in its description of the physiological mechanisms involved, but it does look at a wide variety of experience, from physical pain to depression & mental disorders to everyday moods. Ratey isn't as good as a journalist or fiction writer, but he's clearly a doctor who's explained these ideas to patients and skeptics before, and he provides a reasonable and persuasive case for the substantially positive effects of exercising and elevating heart rate on a regular basis (i.e. in a manner consistent with natural human evolution).

22 of 24 people found this review helpful

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  • Michael
  • Amsterdam, NY, United States
  • 03-28-10

Great book and definitely worth a listen

Fascinating but with practical, useful information as well. As a neuroscience geek, I really enjoyed the book, especially its integrative approach with everything that's known about brain plasticity.

The narrator is excellent as well.

28 of 31 people found this review helpful

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  • Story

as much "a-ha" as it is "duh"

cold have been shorter only because the author makes the same point more than once. but they are good points. it is well established that regular exercise can improve mood. but this book trys to get into how this process happens. the author does seem to have a bias toward walking and running as the prefered forms of exercise for health. but just understanding how anything done for physical health affects mental health is a great place to start.

26 of 30 people found this review helpful

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  • Ingrid
  • Putney, VT, United States
  • 12-09-11

This could change the mental health of our nation!

I don't often re-read books and have never listened to an audio book twice, but I found this book so fascinating and informative that I listened to it twice in a row. This book presents some startling evidence that exercise is not just good for our bodies, but how it actually alters and improves our minds through documented brain changes that take place after even a small amount of exercise. Presented in an accessible format, Ratey shows how doing what we were naturally built to do - move - is some of the best medicine we have, for both physical and mental ills - as well as a way to improve performance on mental tasks. While it would help to have some familiarity with basic neuro terms (like knowing what a neurotransmitter or a synapse is) it's not absolutely necessary' as he does a good job of simply explaining terms as he uses them. I am fascinated with "brain stuff" and have studied a fair amount in this area but learned more from listening to this book than I have from academic books that are specifically about how the brain works (perhaps having the examples of how movement and brain function interact helped to explain the brain part better). I think the listeners who found the book repetitive may have been expecting something other than what he provides here. The "news" comes right up front: exercise has a remarkable effect on the brain and our ability to think. This book provides the evidence, not a flashy sideshow of "breaking headlines". The evidence presented is a steady stream covering many different aspects, from effects on working memory to how exercise influences the treatment of ADHD, addictions, alzheimer's and many other conditions. The narrator generally does a good job, in well modulated tones, although he consistently mispronounces a few key terms (it drove me nuts to hear "hypothalamus" pronounced "hippothalamus" over and over - aren't there "editors" who listen to these audiobooks before releasing them?)

24 of 29 people found this review helpful

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  • Story

Redundant Redundant Redundant Redundant ... and ..

This book wasn???t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

I don't know

Any additional comments?

This book spent 3 hours saying the same thing several different ways and defensively arguing the valid point that excessive promotes a healthy brain. This whole book could have fit in a single chapter.

11 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • ianatyler
  • 09-10-14

slow start but well worth the wait

Would you listen to Spark again? Why?

yes clear easy to listen to

Any additional comments?

just what the doctor ordered.<br/>Highly interesting links between exercise and overall mental and physical health. Well worth the money<br/>

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Daniel
  • 12-02-13

Spark to your training !!!!!

Would you listen to Spark again? Why?

Yes. This book offers the reader a really insightful look at the connections between exercise and the mind.

What did you like best about this story?

The interest it has 'Sparked' in my own training routine and that the benefits it has thought me has lead to real improvements in both my fitness level and state of mind.

What does Walter Dixon bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?

The authors heartfelt belief in his years of study and research is brought to life by the narrator.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The fact that the author believes so strongly that the connection between fitness and the mind and its ability to treat depression is an interesting concept that you can put to the test, if your feeling a little blue.....go for a run !!!! Okay not that simple but is the basis of the concept.

Any additional comments?

Well, well, well worth a read if you are looking for an inspirational kick for your fitness goals.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Julie
  • 07-08-13

Loved it

What made the experience of listening to Spark the most enjoyable?

The fact that I am interested in health and preventative care.

Would you ever listen to anything by John J. Ratey again?

Yes for sure.

Which character – as performed by Walter Dixon – was your favourite?

The narrrator, only character.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

No. It was scientific. It gave me hope though.

Any additional comments?

I would reccomend.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • E
  • 04-13-13

Thought provoking, energising and inspiring!

It was great to hear theories I had backed up by solid real life examples. It is just a shame we don't take these very simple steps to a healthy world. We would all feel so much better if we just made a start and schools are a great place to start.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Jens
  • 08-19-13

Exelent book

What did you like most about Spark?

This book focusede on the main problem we have in the modern world today. As well as showing what the solution is. <br/>

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Karin from Zambia
  • 11-20-17

Exercise presented like never before!

The bottom line is that in order to maximise your pure enjoyment of being alive you MUST read this book. you cannot afford not to.

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  • Taryn
  • 04-11-17

very interesting topics!

extremely easy to listen to and I have learned alot more about exercise's role in keeping negative thinking/energy at Bay.

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  • Mike
  • 08-31-16

Informative

As I already exercise most days I found this book to be motivational for me. It could have been a little more in depth and does drag on a bit in places I thought, apart from that worth listening to again.

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  • dr
  • 01-06-16

I get the message

I was inspired to tell everyone I met about the first chapter.
After that it was a bit repetitive, but did keep reinforcing the idea that exercise is good. There were more hormones mentioned, many times, than I felt a need for. Some of the pronunciation was not as I expected (minor quibble ).
Last couple of chapters felt particularly relevant.
Will listen again;, and look for written version to give to people.

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  • nav
  • 02-02-15

Absolutely fantastic

Loved it. a real insight on whats going inside our brain when we exercise. A brilliant audio book

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  • Mrs. B L S A Feltovich
  • 12-13-17

Good, but...

I liked it but the science is sometimes difficult to follow for non scientific people.

  • Overall
  • Lachlan
  • 10-23-17

Excellent

I have ADHD, and I've been told a thousand times that exercise is hugely important in my management strategy, but no matter how many times I was told this by doctors, psychologists and other specialists, I never paid much heed. So many doctors give general recommendations as a matter of routine, I'm used to ignoring a lot of them. But knowing the exact reasons WHY it's so important, especially with the scientific explanations, has made me actually take it seriously. This book totally changed the way I view exercise, and it's become a non-negotiable priority for me.

The only negative for me is that when delving into the actual science, explanations of biochemistry and stuff, it was hard to keep up with all the terminology at times - names of neurotransmitters, all their respective functions etc. This is inherent with the subject matter in the audio format though - the science can't be explained without using the correct terms, but when listening you can't slow down for the more complex parts. Some books I've given up going and bought the kindle version instead because they were way too dense for audio, but this one isn't that bad, and overall is quite engaging and easy enough to take in.

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  • Adam Henry
  • 05-28-17

A must read!

Vitally important topic in our modern world. Whilst you can easily grasp the message of the book quickly I quite enjoyed the Science behind the results and the repetition of the key message. The narrator has a great voice and I had no trouble listening to this for lengthy periods of time. I've even started running again!

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Mr. D. J. Egan
  • 11-12-16

Just Do It

Exercise is a must for every individual and the desire to change is essential in this world today

0 of 2 people found this review helpful