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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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  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Wow! Wow! Wow!

If you could sum up Spark in three words, what would they be?

Impactful and inspiring - if you want to get motivated to be with people and exercise this is the book for you!

What was one of the most memorable moments of Spark?

The actual chemistry of the brain and how exercise affects it.

Which scene was your favorite?

N/A

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

no

  • Overall
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  • Story
  • J
  • 07-05-14

Want a kick in the head?

WHAT IS THIS BOOK'S FOCUS?
Psychology, neurology, physiology, exercise, aging, human performance

DID THIS BOOK CHANGE THE WAY I VIEW THE WORLD?
Definitely. I recently read Born to Run and had already gone through Brain Rules, but this book takes understanding the brain to a WHOLE NEW LEVEL. Also, it times perfectly with my push for more exercise despite having less time.

Okay, okay. Exercise is good. Everyone knows it - what more is there to say? Well, if you ask Dr. John Ratey, quite a bit more! A clinical associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, and author or co-author of eight books on brain functioning, Ratey is pretty enthusiastic. I don’t know a lot of psychiatrists, but that alone seems worth investigating.

As it turns out, exercise is one of the best things you can do for your brain. Forget doing sudoku or crossword puzzles to help prevent Alzheimers (which recent studies have shown don’t really help anyway), try yoga or skiing! Feeling blue? Maybe even depressed? You’re in luck! More than just a “runner’s high”, the dopamine response with which some exercise enthusiasts are familiar is just the tip of the iceberg.

About halfway through the book I was excited because, hey, I had a pretty good list going of everything I could get just from one exercise session. Then I lost track. Seriously - there are THAT MANY BENEFITS. Granted, a lot of the studies referenced can’t specifically lay out the causal role of exercise vice mere correlation, but there is strong enough evidence (or common sense) to provide entire chapters on how exercise affects the brain not just in learning (fascinating), aging (good to know), but also depression, ADHD, postpartum depression (wives, anyone?) and the list goes on.

Whether you’re interested in the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF, aka “Miracle-Gro”) or just looking to boost your motivation for getting out on a daily AM run (*cough* me *cough*), Spark is jam-packed with case studies (the Naperville one is fascinating) and recommendations for how to use exercise to improve your mood, learning, retention and counter the deterioration commonly associated with aging.

The book is both fascinating and fantastic. There is an associated website for Sparking Life and apparently Ratey just wrote a new book called Go Wild: Free Your Body and Mind from the Afflictions of Civilization. I’ll be checking it out soon - and you have some catching up (and exercise) to do!

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Best and most informative book yet

What did you love best about Spark?

The author presents mountains of evidence. It is very motivating and extremely informative and not boring as you would expect.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Spark?

The first chapter about the school, was a nice setup for the rest of the book.

The last paragraph of the book. Not the ultimate ending but memorable.

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

himself

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No, too much for one sitting.

Any additional comments?

I would knock off one star because:
The author had some theories about the why the body acts as it does that was a bit "out there". Also, this book is not geared for those who cannot physically perform moderate exercise. Better if you're a dedicated athlete, otherwise "sorry about your luck".

But otherwise I would give 6 stars if possible!! The best audio book I've heard!

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Exercise is Like Taking Prozac & Ritalin

I find about 30% of this book pretty boring (mostly the parts with chemical and brain part names), 30% fascinating (the case studies/stories), and 30% okay. It does a great job of listing out hundreds of reasons why you should exercise for your brain's sake, especially if you have any family or personal history of depression, ADD, Alzheimer's, etc. If I were to pull out the actionable highlights, they'd be:

- Get a heart rate monitor (I bought a Polar ET4 after listening)
- Multiply your weight by 8 and try to burn at least that many calories a week according to your heart monitor to get the best brain effects.
- Shoot for six workouts a week.
- Walking's fine. High intensity's better, but walking gets you a lot of the benefit.
- Take Omega 3 Fish Oil.

It's worth listening to at least once to hear the stories. Tough it out through the science, the suggestions are gold.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Great Book to motivate you about doing exercises.

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

Great Book to motivate you about doing exercises and the benefits for the Body and Brian. Sometimes it's little bit to technical for me. But overall I will give it 8 out of 10.

amazing for what exercising do for depressed people.

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  • Story

Gives insights of how exercises are important

Great book, if you wish to know more about the scientific impact of exercises it's a great listening. Gives good examples and shows it's importance.

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More motivating than most

What did you love best about Spark?

By clarifying how exercise affects the brain, this book has made me look at exercising in a different and far more motivated way.

Any additional comments?

Would especially recommend to anybody who has children or is engaged in education.

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  • Story

Confirmation of What You May Already Know.

What I appreciated about this book was how Dr. John Ratey covered numerous areas on how exercise benefits the brain and paired the ideas with studies I had not been aware of. I did not know about the school district in Illinois that said yes to an exercise program that had such great results, their students were performing top in the world in academics. He covers exercise benefits in areas of aging, ADHD, depression, anxiety, pregnancy and post-pardum depression. My exercise now is more focused on the many benefits and since listening to the book, I now do 15 minutes of high intensity aerobics to create for myself energy and focus for my evening work I must get done after my exhausting 8hr job. It works like a charm. Thank you Dr. Ratey. I recommend this book highly to all, especially parents, those 50 and older, women who are pregnant or going through menopause, those who want to lengthen the life of their brain's vitality… so that is just about everybody.

Great job Walter Dixon in your narration. I imagined this info as YOURS. You made a huge difference in the experience of listening.

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Fantastic book

If you could sum up Spark in three words, what would they be?

Must read, amazing!

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

I would have liked to listen to this all in one day or two but I listened in between commutes and had to deal with distractions. However I still got quite a bit out of it and am getting ready to listen to it for a second time. This book actually inspired me to go buy an Xbox 360 and some dance games too!

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  • Jayme
  • CAMBRIDGE, MA, United States
  • 12-17-13

Interesting, but more scientific than expected

Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why or why not?

Yes, because it is interesting, and provides compelling reasons to exercise on a regular basis that go beyond the usual.

How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

I appreciated that the arguments were backed up with science, but I found that the author went way too far into the neurological specifics, which the average reader cannot come close to comprehending.