Book Review: Spark – The Revolutionary Science of Exercise and the Brain

by Dr Michael Trayford on January 5, 2012

Released in January of 2008, the book Spark was a catalyst for massive change in my own personal life. Being a perpetual student of neurology, and more specifically neuroplasticity, I am always on the lookout for new resources to share with my patients to help them on their quest for optimal health. Dr. John Ratey does a superb job in this book outlining the physical changes that occur in our brains as a result of the various types of physical activity/exercise we perform; and for those that don’t exercise, it will give you incredible motivation to start the journey!

Many of us exercise because we feel we “have to”, or to burn calories, lose weight, build muscle and look better. While these are good reasons, they typically do not sustain the motivation we need for lifelong health. Dr. Ratey helps us to understand the countless chemical compounds that are produced as a result of various types of exercise (such as insulin like growth factor – IGF1, vascular endothelial growth factor – VEGF, brain derived neurotrophic factor – BDNF), and what these compounds do to improve our ability to handle blood sugar, repair blood vessels and establish connections within our nervous system.

It has been shown that our thoughts and emotions are an internalization of our body movements.  The way we move our bodies, and understanding the impact this has on our brains, is critical for battling many behavioral, psychological, biochemical and physical conditions. Dr. Ratey outlines 7 specific conditions including anxiety, depression, and ADHD among others; which can benefit tremendously with appropriate and adequate physical activity.

There is an abundance of evidence supporting neurogenesis (new brain cell growth) as a result of physical activity, and this is explored within the pages of this book as well.

When you are done with this book you will feel that losing weight and looking better is merely a pleasant side effect of exercise, and not necessarily the most important effect. I can speak from personal experience that this book will significantly change the way you view exercise as it has added a tremendous amount of new life to my quest for optimal health – and it has been nice to lose a few pounds and look better in the process!!

Next post: