Are you fat? Exercise! Are you stressed? Depressed? Exercise! Do you have ADHD? Exercise! Do you fear dementia? Exercise! Do you want to learn more, and more quickly? Exercise! Do you struggle with an addiction to drugs or alcohol? Exercise! Do you want to recover from your periods faster? Exercise! Exercise! Exercise! Six times a week, preferably, alternating short intense days and long, milder ones. Exercise! At least thirty minutes a day! Lift weights, but make sure you keep your heart at 60% of its max: cardio is better! Exercise!
Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain is an easy book to summarize and a hard book to review, because it’s just the same lesson over and over again in different topics: our brains were made for movement. I’ve long known that my own mind was more active when I was on the move — I’d spend hours jumping on a trampoline in my backyard as a kid and thinking up stories involving my action figures, stories I could never quite recapture if I was just sitting down playing with them — so the first chapter on how exercise promotes learning didn’t surprise me at all. The author is a psychiatrist who, over the years, has found a prescription for exercise to be an invaluable part of his toolkit. In each chapter, he discusses how exercise has made a pronounced effect on individuals in his practice, or in others. With each, he covers the effects of exercise — what is happening in the brain to help in this instance — and shares the studies which have helped us understand what is happening. While in most cases the exercised brain’s contributions involve biochemical changes within the brain itself, sometimes these changes are also a stepping stone that allow patients to break negative cycles of stress, depression, and chemical addiction.
Although a bit repetitive, Spark is promising. And with that, so ends Health Week 2019! Now, on to Herodotus!