Spark The revolutionary new science of exercise and the brainShort review:

Buy this book, borrow if from the library or a friend, download it illegally… Whatever, but grab a copy and read it immediately.

Normal review:

OK, so by now you all have heard about how good exercise is for your heart, lungs, muscles, joints, etc., BUT have any of you heard about what exercise does to your brain functions? Don’t worry; you can learn it with this book.

Spark begins explaining the biochemical process of exercising regarding your brain, but it’s not exactly about the “runners’ high”; it’s about the neurotransmitters released in the neurons, the factors that make neurons create new receptors, and the process of producing new brain cells in order to increase your brain functions. I had only heard about getting more oxygen in the brain thanks to exercise, and therefore making your brain work better, but the fact that you can increase the number of neurons and their connections between each other ONLY by exercising has blown my mind.

So well, the author explains this, and then he goes throughout a series of chapters where he talks about a specific matter, including normal situations as well as psychiatric conditions, and how exercise affects that situation or disease. The chapters include anxiety, depression, dementia, ADHD, chronic pain, pregnancy, menopause, learning and education, etc.

I could talk to you about every one of these chapters, but I think it’s better if you read the book. However, here are some random ideas from the book that I want to share:

  • Exercise changes your pain threshold so you don’t feel as much pain as if you don’t practice any exercise.
  • Stress makes your brain work slower and your neurons die.
  • Women over 30 who don’t exercise loose 1% of their bone mass per year.
  • Overweight people are more likely to suffer from dementia at old ages.
  • Exercise is now beginning to be used as a treatment for some conditions. Not as something to do besides the treatment: as the treatment itself.
  • To get benefits from exercise you only have to do 30 minutes every day, which I think it is something everybody can commit to do.

So I really want all the people I know to read this book and began doing something about it. After all, we are responsible for our own mental and physical health, and to me, the idea that you can increase both at the same time is terrific.

Summarizing: read this book right now!

PS: I would like to talk about the first chapter, in which the author tells about a new program in some schools in Florida where students do exercise every day first thing in the morning and they have increased their ratings in the rest of the subjects. Besides, the Physical Education class in these schools is not the one we once knew and suffered: here the students have heart monitors and they can choose among a wide variety of sports, being rated only by how hard they had made their hearts work.

I was very surprised by this way of focusing PE in children, because I have always been rated for my performance in different sport tasks, and I had a good average in everything except for running. As an adult I began running with a heart monitor and I noticed that I run above the maximum of my heart rate according to my age, so I didn’t get good grades at running in school, but I was probably working harder than any other of my classmates.

I think that PE has to change and become the subject which teach us how to live healthily for the rest of our lives.