Spark combines two of my favorite things on earth...neuropsych and exercise. While parts of the book are perfectly easy reading, other parts are rather technical. If you don't have a background in brain science, it would be helpful while reading to have some diagrams of the brain within reach, so you can conceptualize the complex chapters. In fact, that would be my only suggestion for the author - that some anatomical brain diagrams might help the average reader.
So what do the brain and exercise have in common? Lots! It turns out that exercise plays a huge role in how our brain is functioning. Not just the day to day stuff either. One of my favorite parts is that it helps in the prevention of and/or slowing of brain degeneration (i.e. stuff like Alzheimers). Following the chapters of the book, exercise will increase functioning or improve the following:
- Learning (increase your ability)
- Stress (help manage stress better)
- Anxiety (decrease anxiety)
- Depression (decrease depression - studies suggest that running is as good as Zoloft)
- Attention Deficit (ADD or ADHD) - (decrease/manage symptoms)
- Addiction (help overcome addiction)
- Hormonal Changes (like menopause, PMS, etc.)
- Aging (slow degeneration, build new brain growth)
Now if you want to take Ratey's approach to improving your brain function, any exercise is better than no exercise. But in particular, he recommends aerobic exercise. Specifically, running. Whatever you do, you should do it at high intensity for short bursts to get the maximum brain effect. So if you're on an elliptical, you should give yourself little bursts - say 30 seconds - to go all out. The rest of the time can be a moderate pace. In addition, he highly recommends exercise that involves very specialized body movements such as Tae Kwan Do and gymnastics. Although he didn't recommend horseback riding, I would think that something like dressage would fit in with that too.
You're in for a treat with Dr. Ratey's book, and if you don't have a current exercise regimen, I would think that after reading this book you'd find the information leaves such a strong impression that you will want to make appropriate changes in your lifestyle to start. Happy reading - and running!