Submitted by Ginny Gabel, Community Health Educator for Adventist Health

SPARK is an amazing read. Ratey, a Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, might be best known for his research on ADHD, which he talks about in his book Driven to Distraction. In SPARK, he explains how the brain changes with physical activity and how these changes can be life changing.
The most dramatic effect is told in the stories of people and situations that overcome great challenges by recognizing the value of exercise. Naperville School District outside of Chicago transformed 19,000 students with the lowest test scores in Math & Science into the fittest and smartest students in the nation. Their Science test scores became the highest in the world. How? By teaching fitness as lifestyle not fitness as in sports.
Dr. Ratey explains how our brain is far more elastic and regenerating than ever thought. This means movement, aka exercise, leads to less pain, boosts your dopamine which elevates your mood, increases ability to focus and pay attention. Exercise improves serotonin (a neurotransmitter) which again improves mood, moderates impulse control, counteracts damaging effects of stress and improves learning. Being active keeps our brain growing and forming new neuron connections way into our senior years, therefore less dementia is seen in those engaging in exercise on a regular basis. Chapters on addiction, attention deficit, anxiety, depression, stress, dealing with hormonal changes, and aging explain how these disorders can be greatly improved or eliminated by brain-stimulating exercise.
Ratey ends with the following: “My hope is that . . . you grab your gym bag instead of the remote, or spend time on the field rather than the sidelines. From your genes to your emotions, your body and brain are dying to embrace the physical life. You are built to move. When you do, you’ll be on fire.”
So, run, don’t walk to your nearest library or bookstore to get this brain stimulating book.

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