Book review: Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John J. Ratey, MD (Part 2)

Book review: Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John J. Ratey, MD (Part 2)

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Like I mentioned in my post earlier this week, I love this book called Spark. It really made me think twice about why I exercise. I used to exercise to get sweaty and maybe lose a few pounds. Now it’s mostly about helping clear my mind and making it function better. The book looks at how exercise helps the brain best deals with a few conditions, let it be stress, ADD/ADHD, anxiety, depression and addiction.

As we now know, physical exercise is a stress we’re putting on the body in order to stay or get fit. Since we don’t have to run away from predators or chase down animals for our dinner, we have to look to outside stimuli to get exercise. Sometimes it’s weights, sometimes it’s swimming, sometimes it’s running. As long as you’re getting your heart rate up, you’re exercising and thus helping your brain. Stressing your body the right way will help you decrease the (bad) stress for you.

What is now clear is that exercise helps us think more clearly, and it really seems to help people with ADD/ADHD. How calm do you feel after a good workout? How clear is your mind? Bingo!

With the new-found interest in mental health, we’re seeing a plethora of studies which show that exercise helps depression. There are many personal stories I’ve heard and stay tuned for mine very shortly.

Anxiety seems to have to do with the fear of the unknown. Exercise can help rebuild patterns and make you feel in control of something in your life, even if it’s just daily workouts. We’re even seeing how exercise, such as running in this case, helps local former addicts as there are multiple success stories in the Ottawa Mission including one about Barry.

He also makes a good point about aging. We can’t really turn back the clock but we can combat all the effects with daily exercise, physical and mental. We can all be the next Jack Lalanne, we just need to make sure we don’t stop.

The main point Dr. Ratey is trying to make is that exercise is the single most powerful tool you have to optimize your brain function. It also comes with tons of other amazing benefits. So what’s stopping you?

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