If you are reading this blog, you probably run and you know that running makes you feel good. Running boosts our mood and helps us deal with stress and anxiety. That’s one of the reasons why it’s so addictive. I’ve always known that exercise is good for us physically and mentally, but it wasn’t until I read the book, Spark, that I realized how important exercise is to the proper, healthy function of our brain.
This book was published in 2008, but I only read it about six months ago. It is one of my favourite diet and fitness books that I’ve read. It doesn’t just tell you what to do, but it explains on a chemical level how exercise affects your brain for the better. It delves in to how exercise is related to learning, how it strengthens synapses in the brain, and how it actually can grow your brain cells. The book also talks about how exercise helps you cope with stress, anxiety, depression, addiction, and more. Some of the author’s explanations were a bit over my knowledge level, but he does a great job of explaining scientific ideas in a understandable way.
The book is filled with interesting case studies and scientific experiments that show the effect of aerobic exercise. The scientific terms can get dry and a bit repetitive, but the anecdotes sprinkled throughout make it very engaging. Reading about how exercise has helped others is a real motivator too. I found that I wanted to take breaks from reading to do some jumping jacks or go for a run.
Here’s a few ideas that I’ve taken away from this book:
- If you’re trying to learn something new or remember something important, exercising first can strengthen your ability to learn and remember.
- When possible, exercising in the morning is best, because it gives your brain the chemicals it needs to stay focused throughout the day.
- When I’m feeling anxious or stressed out, even 5-10 minutes of getting my heart rate up will help me cope. This is one I’ve really tried to put into practice. When I get home from my commute, if I feel like I’m going to pull my hair out, I’ll put on some music and dance around the house for a few minutes. I dance until I’m happy again! I feel a little insane, but it always works.
It’s been a few months since I read Spark, so I’ve forgotten a lot of the details, but I think it’s a book that I’ll read again and again (at least bits and pieces of it). If you enjoy reading books about diet and exercise, I think you’ll enjoy this one. It’s a little heavier than a typical fitness book, but it leaves you feeling like you’ve really learned something new.