Spark by John J. Ratey

an image of a cover for Spark by Dr. Ratey

My score for Spark: 💧💧💧💧💧💧(6/6)

For details and reviews, go to the Amazon page.

My list of books which I read and reviewed.

You’ll benefit from reading this book if (at least one of the following):

  • lacking the motivation to exercise
  • don’t know why you should exercise
  • want to know more about neurology and human brain

I don’t usually read/listen to books twice. Spark is an exception for many reasons. I remember finishing the book for the first time and immediately went running for 20mins. It’s an incredible source of motivation because it doesn’t only explain the benefits of regular aerobic exercise but also backs it up with tons of research and studies.

Probably, the most fascinating one is at the beginning of the book when the author, Dr. John Ratey, tells a story about a school district of 19 000 students in Naperville and their revolutionary fitness program (0-hour class) which put them first in the world of science test scores.

The other parts of the book are always about the benefits where studies are thoroughly explained. I had to listen to this book twice because there’s just too much information to absorb – you learn a lot about neurology, brain structure and most importantly about Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) which was found to be, metaphorically speaking, like a fertilizer for our brain to enhance learning and creativity. BDNF is released in our brain during an aerobic exercise or more precisely when our heart is thumping at a moderate/fast pace.

At the end of the book, the author also discusses depression and Alzheimer’s Disease, and how aerobic exercise can help.

As I said, this book is a really well-researched piece of work. It gives the “why” and the motivation for exercising. There are just too many benefits. It would be very difficult not to be intrigued by at least one of them. 

What is the minimum amount of exercise for the most benefits?  The author claims that 20- 30 minutes of an aerobic exercise per day is optimal. It can be really anything that makes your heart pump blood. You can do running, swimming, bicycling or even sex with your partner. The point is that it has to make your heart pump in order for the BDNF to be released. It should be at a pace which you can maintain for an hour (160-190 beats per minute is ideal).

Personally, I go to the gym 3-4 times per week with one 45min swimming session and I also do a lot of fast paced walking. At the gym, I am not always at 160+ BPM and I am quite sure that during swimming I might go over 190BPM occasionally (but not sure, never measured it while swimming).

Not everyone feels like measuring their BPM during every exercise. So that’s probably why a kinesiologist at Iowa State University says that you should just get some exercise for 20-30 minutes which feels “somewhat” hard. You don’t have to track your beats, just make sure you feel a little bit uncomfortable. 

If you want to read more about Naperville high school, you can read this article. Otherwise, I would recommend reading the book. All the studies are there with proper referencing.

Daniel Pelnar

Hey, I am the founder of If you would like to contact me, tweet me @DanielPelnar or drop a comment below for this specific article. I wish you happy reading. ^_^

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