Spark-The Revolutionary New Science Of Exercise And The Brain

john rateys spark book summary
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John Ratey’s spark book summary

1 Sentence Summary of Spark by John Ratey

We feel fresh after doing exercise. But, Why? It not only because it increases the level of dopamine, serotonin & endorphins, of course, they play measure role but we feel better because our brain functions at it’s best after exercising. When our brain functions at its full potential we learn things faster, we can control our emotions, stress & anxiety.

If we know this better, we will include it in our life naturally, not as something we should do. This is the reason Author John Ratey, who is a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School wrote the book Spark: The revolutionary new science of exercise & the brain.

In this book, Author John Ratey explained very clearly how the body and mind related to each other and how exercise improves brain functionality. So, let’s start the Spark Book Summary.

A Case Study on Exercise & the Brain

Naperville Central High School started a zero hour physical education program to check the notion that exercise improves student’s performance and learning abilities.

This experiment made 19000 students fittest in the country. Exercise not only improved these students’ physique but also improved their learning. These students noticed the increased awareness, improvement in reading & comprehension.

Physical activity sparks the fire in the brain cells. The more often these cells fired more they bind together making a connection stronger. But why this happened? and what is the relation between the brain and body?

How Exercise Affects Learning?

After running for a mile what exercise did for the Naperville students in the classrooms it can do the same for adults in the classroom of life. It can improve the brain’s potential to log in and process the new information. But how? Let’s see.

Mind-Body Connection

Prefrontal Cortex is an area in the brain that acts like a CEO. It does the executive functions like receiving inputs, planning, judging, organizing & assigning them to the brain’s other areas.

Hippocampus is the area in the brain related to memory & learning. It receives the information from working memory, compares with the stored information, creating new associations & reporting back to the prefrontal cortex.

Along with these areas, you might know that our brain consists of a hundred billion neurons or brain cells. When we do any activity or learn new things, this brain cell fires and carries the signal. When we repeat activity brain cell fire more easily and faster will be the transmission of a signal. These neurons or brain cells govern our thoughts, actions, and emotions.

Along with these brain cells, there are neurotransmitters that play an important role in the working of the brain. These neurotransmitters are serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. Serotonin helps to keep brain activity under control. It affects mood, anger, aggressiveness, and impulsivity. Norepinephrine amplifies signals that influence attention, perception, and motivation.

Dopamine affects the learning ability, satisfaction and movement. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is a protein that helps brain cell growth and gives strength to signal. Exercise balances these neurotransmitters by increasing their level and makes the brain calm, attentive and ready to learn.

When we learn a new french word, Prefrontal cortex fire along with Hippocampus and other connections. After learning that word prefrontal cortex goes dark & focus on new challenges. This is how activities like riding bikes become second nature.

When we exercise we are also exercising these areas of the brain involved in cognitive functions. We are causing the brain to fire the signals along with the same network of cells which makes the connection stronger. Thus morning walk is important.

Exercise improves learning on three levels

  1. It optimizes your mind-set to improve alertness, attention, and motivation.
  2. It prepares and encourages cells to bind to one another, which is the cellular basis for logging in new information
  3. It helps the development of new nerve cells from stem cells in the hippocampus.

Exercise Your Options

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Now you convinced that exercise can help to any aspect of our life. The main question is that, how much exercise one should do to get the result?

One small but scientifically sound study from Japan found that jogging thirty minutes just two or three times a week for twelve weeks improved executive function.

But according to one experiment on rats found that after doing activities such as walking across balance beams, unstable objects, and elastic rope ladders which involve motor skills these rats had a 35 percent increase of BDNF in the cerebellum, whereas the running rats had none in that area.

Thus the author suggests doing skill-based activities like tennis, asanas of yoga, dancing along with aerobic exercises.

At this level, you burning fat in the body and generating the necessary elements for all the structural changes in the brain. Mix aerobic exercise, Jumping rope, Yoga as these activities build strength, balance, and flexibility.

Related Book SummaryThe Miracle Morning Summary

Stress The Greatest Challenge

Losing a job and simple walking both are stressful activities, how? Because mental stress and physical moment both activate neurons. But physical stress a make neurons more resilient and mental stress break them and create anxiety and depression.

There is a certain threshold or limit above which a person fill stressed. If you do aerobic exercise at 60 to 65% of maximum heart rate it dramatically increases anxiety and depression by balancing neurotransmitters and increasing Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).

With this, we come to the end of John Ratey’s Spark Book Summary. After reading this book summary I recommend you go through the book to explore more ideas like how exercise affects anxiety, attention deficiency, etc. See you the next week with another summary. Till then happy reading and happy exercising.

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