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Learn the key ideas of the book by John J. Ratey


The beneficial effects of exercise on the brain

So what exactly is the secret to igniting the cognitive capacity (*read brainpower!) of our mind and becoming more intelligent, creative and happier? The answer is EXERCISE, as long as we do it willingly, and consistently. The mechanisms which help turn our brain into an unstoppable machine that benefits both body and mind, lie in leading an active life. This activity will in turn help us to learn more easily, to overcome anxiety, deal with mood swings and help us to stay focussed, leading to a longer, healthier life. In his book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain Dr John J Ratey, a leading expert in the science of the mind, shows us what really goes on behind the scenes in our brain.

Read in 29 min.
Listen in 36 min.

The mind and body are connected, and they both benefit from physical exercise

The brain is a mysterious machine, whose functions, despite countless studies, are still under constant scrutiny by scientists and researchers: after all, it is precisely in this fundamental organ that the secrets for a healthy, fulfilling and long-lasting life are contained. So it is not uncommon to read about new, surprising and sometimes unexpected developments. Among these, in recent decades there has been an ever greater acknowledgement that exercise and movement are strongly connected with the mechanisms which allow the brain to work at its best, triggering a series of reactions in the cells that can radically change our entire existence.

The connection between movement and well-being has its roots in our past: what we are today is an evolution of what we were in the beginning, meaning animals whose survival was dependent on the movement required to capture the prey on which they fed. Over the many centuries of evolution, our brain has adapted to changes in the surrounding environment and the society we live in, up to the present day, when in a world dominated by a sedentary lifestyle and countless screens, we seem to have stopped listening to our body’s natural instinct to move, and we have begun to completely exclude movement from our day. This is a real threat, not only to human health, but also for our future, because movement and intelligence, creativity and knowledge are strongly connected, and all the incredible works and achievements that mankind has ever made, come from this. Unfortunately, the society we live in treats body and mind as two separate entities, but the truth is that they are closely related, and should be thought of as such.

This is the motivation behind the author's theories: we should all include physical exercise in our daily lives, not only to help us feel better physically, to look better and to be healthier, but also in order to make the most of our cognitive abilities, by looking after our brains.

Many studies have shown that movement increases the levels of certain neurotransmitters - serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine - which regulate our thoughts and emotions, and among other things, help keep depression and addictions at bay, and help to treat ADHD, (attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder). Studies carried out in recent decades, however, also show the important role that movement plays in the treatment of female hormonal changes, and therefore for anyone suffering from premenstrual syndrome or disorders related to pregnancy and menopause, and in keeping us healthy and alert as we get older. Finally, motion and physical activity are inextricably linked to the learning process, as shown by the exceptional results of new high-intensity exercise programs trialled in certain American schools.


The key ideas of "Spark"

The mind and body are connected, and they both benefit from physical exercise
Physical exercise and movement strengthen learning and cognitive ability
The secret to dealing with stress is to stay active
The calming effect of exercise is crucial to the treatment of anxiety and panic attacks
The endorphins and neurotransmitters released during exercise help to treat depression
Complex sports can help with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
Intense motor movements help keep addiction under control thanks to the release of dopamine
Moderate and constant exercise is perfect for helping with hormonal imbalance
Regular exercise can slow the aging process
Take-home message
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