This book was a bit of a mixed bag for me. It started off strong and rather compelling with a case study about innovative personal fitness (not PE) classes at a few high schools that were almost an experiment to see if exercise had any effect on students’ academic performance. Of course, it did.
From there, Ratey launches into a detailed explanation on the physical, functional, and chemical properties of the brain and how exercise influences each of these areas. This wasn’t what I would call light reading, but I think he did a nice job of taking very complex information and making it accessible to laypeople. I found this part of the book fascinating.
The remainder of the book is divided into sections such as stress, ADHD, hormonal shifts, aging, anxiety, depression, and addiction. This is where things started to get a little repetitive for me. Ratey did use some case studies in each of these sections to illustrate the impact of exercise on each of these troubles, but the brain science was much the same as was the message: exercise can improve or cure all of these conditions.
The author states it very plainly: if exercise could be put into pill form and bottled, it would be hailed as the miracle drug to end all miracle drugs.
Overall, Spark was a thought-provoking read that may just make you look at exercise in a whole different way. It may not make it any more fun, but you can take comfort in the fact that it has far more benefits that just physical health and best of all, it’s all-natural.