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Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain

Key Message

Physical activity is crucial to thinking and feeling. Aerobic exercise prepares the brain to learn, improves mood and attention, lowers stress and anxiety, helps stave off addiction, controls effects of hormonal changes and guards against and even reverses some of the effects of aging of the brain.

Source

Ratey, Joh J. (2008). Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. New York, New York: Little, Brown and Company.

Purpose

The latest research shows that for the brain to function at its peak, the body needs to move. This book demonstrates exactly how and why physical activity is crucial to thinking and feeling. It explains how aerobic exercise prepares the brain to learn, improves mood and attention, lowers stress and anxiety, helps stave off addiction, controls effects of hormonal changes and guards against and even reverses some of the effects of aging of the brain.

Evidence

After a new fitness program was instituted in an Illinois School District of 19,000, test scores soared - first in the world in science, and sixth in math. Exercise improves learning on three levels: first it optimizes the mind-set to improve alertness, attention and motivation; second it prepares and encourages nerve cells to bind to one another, which is the cellular basis for logging in new information; and third, it spurs the development of new nerve cells from stem cells in the hippocampus. (p 53)

Too much stress can sever connections between neurons. Exercise counteracts this by increasing blood flow to the brain and creating a surge in protective neurochemicals. Exercise combats stress related diseases and aids in the recovery from disorders such as arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, and fibromyalgia. Research suggests that exercise for cancer patients helps to fend off stress and depression, and improve the risk of some forms of the disease: Active people have 50% less risk of of developing colon cancer Active men have 70% lower risk of developing the advanced, often fatal form of prostate cancer Active women have a lower risk of breast cancer. (p 84).

Exercise has been proven to not only reduce anxiety but to rewire certain pathways and prevent it. About 18% of Americans suffer from mood disorders sometime during their lives. Exercise is more effective than anti-depressive drugs because it elevates endorphins, boosts dopamine and regulates the neurotransmitters targeted by those drugs.

Exercise is particularly important for women in each phase of the life cycle because it tones down the negative consequences of hormonal changes that some experience, and enhances the positive effects of others. Exercise helps stave off memory loss and Alzheimer's, and keeps the mind sharp. Women who are active have 50% less chance of developing dementia.

Exercise increases dopamine which improves focus and attention, and is a recommended treatment for ADHD. Dopamine also increases the brain's ability to satiate, so exercise will assist in dealing with addiction.

Benefit Statements / Outcomes

Leadership Provided By:

  • Leisure Information Network (LIN)
  • Alberta Recreation and Parks Association

On Behalf Of:

  • Canadian Parks and Recreation Association (CPRAA)

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