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

I have been trying to exercise more and the most tremendous asset I have ever found is the LoseIt application. Whether you log calories online, your Apple product, or even from your Droid, LoseIt is revolutionary. The premise: set your actual weight and your desired weight. LoseIt will automatically configure your daily caloric limit - so one must exercise diligence to lose weight by logging what they eat. Here's the rub: whatever calories you burn are plugged in and increase food calories. So, if you burn 1000 calories, you are allowed to eat 1000 more calories all while keeping under your daily caloric goal.

Such exercise reminded me of a book I reviewed entitled Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. While this is mostly applicable in the school milieu - the tenets would inform any group looking to substantiate exercise.

My review is enclosed below. Please feel free to leave comments at my blog.

Available at

Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. [Hardcover]
by John J. Ratey, MD and Eric Hagerman, Contributor
304 pages, $24.99
ISBN-13: 978-0316113502

Review by Steven King, MBA, MEd

Modern America is in love with fitness. It seems that the quest for the body beautiful has reached epidemic proportions. However, most people only think about the physical benefits of exercise. It should come as no surprise that exercise is a good idea – for the body and the mind. Although marketing gurus would have us believe that everyone in America owns a Bowflex or an Ab-Roller, it seems that the result of our overly sedentary lifestyle has largely caught up with us.

Mind you, this is not a novel idea. Even Plato conceded, “Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being, while movement and methodical exercise save it and preserve it.” This tome came to us from one of the very people who helped lay the philosophical foundation of Western culture.

Building upon this platonic idea that humans are genetically built to move, Dr. John Ratey provides an excellent development of the “why” behind exercise’s importance. His book, Spark: the Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain provides enough scientific evidence to spark an interest in all readers.

Dr. Ratey includes a landmark case where a school in Illinois actually reversed a negative educational trend by incorporating an intense athletic regimen. His delving into the realities there demonstrates the connection between exercise and increased intellectual acumen. Many school districts, who are currently opining for the next “magical bullet” to fix their systems, might find their money better spent on heart rate monitors that prove their students are exercising in the right zone. This methodology worked wonders in Naperville, Illinois.

It seems that Dr. Ratey wants to destroy stereotypes of unintelligent athletes. Nothing could be further from the truth: more movement actually increases the brain’s ability to learn. This book provides sufficient scientific detail to prove it – to a physician, teacher, or layman. Dr. Ratey, himself a clinical associate professor of psychiatry, has no intention to aim this work exclusively at the scientifically minded, however. Even the intermittent athlete can benefit from decreased tendencies toward stress, depression, or anxiety.


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