John J. Ratey reveals the latest findings of neuroscience and the research around the effects of exercise in brain chemistry, health, mood, learning, focus, and more. This enlightening exhibition of all the latest research starts with an anecdote of a midwestern school district that went from typical American results in math and science to one of the top in the world, even beating most Asian countries in math and science after implementing a fitness-based gym class program - evolving from a sports-based program where most of the "athletes" were sidelined to one in which fitness was central and included elements such as treadmill use, 3 on 3 games of basketball, exercise bikes, video game dancing competitions and more all under the watchful eye of a coach with a very innovative tool - the heart rate monitor. The gym teacher used the heart rate monitor to not only track student performance but to grade the students. Over target heart rate 85% of the time was a B, over target heart rate 90% of the time, an A, etc. It was an amazingly insightful tool as students who seemed to plod along on the track finally had proof of their hard work and a grade that reflected it. What amazed educators, parents, students, administrators, and other key people involved were the soaring grades and test scores of program participants. They seemed to have a competitive advantage over the students not in the program.
The major premise that John J. Ratey confirms through his extensive presentation of the latest neuroscientific research on brain health; is that the brain lives inside the body, and therefore, the health of the body is indicative or a predictor of the health of the brain. He cites statistics from recent studies that will knock your socks off - or tie your running shoes on - that moderate exercise, such as walking, three times a week for about an hour may reduce your chance of developing dementia by up to 50%! If that doesn't have you clambering for your old workout clothes - it gets better. Dr. Ratey goes on to present the latest findings with regard to depression, anxiety, ADHD, dementia and Alzheimer's, the "Big 3" (cancer, heart disease and diabetes), learning, attention and memory, pregnancy, and much more! One startling statistic from a study of antidepressants and exercise concluded that exercise was as effective (if not more) than antidepressant medication at reducing depression.
If you ever find that you are lacking motivation in your workout routine, feeling ho hum about your current exercise regimen, or just don't see the point anymore of making those daily walks you need to read this book. It has been the singularly most motivating exercise book I have read in the last five years! It renewed my commitment to myself, my health, and the health of my brain to make it a foundational habit and a non-negotiable one. I will never go back to a neither here nor there exercise routine. If I ever don't want to exercise I just think of how it will elevate my mood, burn stress away, reduce anxiety, increase mental clarity, add focus, raise productivity, decrease cortisol and inflammation, and therefore inflammation-related diseases, and even improve my appearance and diminish the effects of aging! Who wouldn't want to do it?
The particular type of exercise that he suggests for brain health is cardio, although he extols the benefits of resistance (weight) training and other exercises for their myriad other benefits such as increased bone density, etc. He is quite adamant about training with a heart rate monitor to keep you in the "zone" for the duration of your workout. Believing in his genius I picked up a waterproof one and used it pretty consistently for a couple of months, but then it got forgotten and ignored due to the annoyance of having to wet and assemble the gear each time I used it. I'll be honest, it got a little annoying after I knew approximately what my heart rate was based on my breathing. However, it was useful in the beginning to identify my body's signals of my target heart rate zone.
Overall, I found his presentation of research to be extremely comprehensive and peppered with personal anecdote and advice from athletes, trainers, and enthusiasts alike. If you are looking for reasons "why" to exercise, this audiobook is over 8 hours of riveting rationale of why you can't afford not to! A good read for your health and the health of your brain. This book will provide the much needed "spark" to light a fire under your tush to get moving!
Author Darren Hardy, publisher at SUCCESS magazine, asks you the question, where would you be tomorrow if today, you sought to do just a little more, put in a little more effort, worked just an hour later, etc. in his latest book, The Compound Effect. He naturally uses the analogy of financial compounding to illustrate the example that just a penny more invested each day over the course of a lifetime could be a difference of thousands of dollars in the end. He goes on to elucidate how keystone habits such as exercising, quitting smoking, working harder, cutting calories, etc. might start as really small, seemingly inconsequential differences in the larger scheme of things, but when compounded over time they lead to transformational breakthroughs such as avoiding heart disease and obesity, saving yourself thousands of dollars and the pains of lung disease, gaining promotions and success at work, and having that beach body you may have only been dreaming of for years!
Hardy invites you to practice self study and self inquiry so that you investigate your current thinking, habits, and routines, and look for minor or small improvements you can make in processes that might add up to substantial gains in the future. This has helped me avoid procrastination at work as I continually ask myself, "How can I give just a little bit more right now?" Sometimes that involves prioritizing or just simply rolling up my sleeves and doing those less than glamorous tasks on the to-do list that previously might have been sloughed off by procrastination and delay.
I have found there is a downside to this type of thinking though. Especially if you are prone to perfectionism or can run yourself ragged like I tend to do, it can lead to overexertion and a "goodism" that may lead you to seek to improve and over perform in every area of your life. That caution being carefully placed though, I believe it is important for one to constantly seek to improve process, habit, routine, actions, systems for organization, nutrition, and health and wellness habits. He made an interesting challenge in the book. He asked, if you could change and/or start a new, better habit every 21 days, how would your life be transformed a year from now? I have mapped out my next two cycles of habit formation for the next 6 weeks and am happy to say that I am already seeing positive change in my health and wellness. I don't want to totally rat myself out but one habit involves flossing and the other refraining from refined sugars! (I'm sure you can complete the guesswork!)
Taking the compound effect to every area of your life might be a bit overzealous, but then again, how would your life be if you ate a little less, drank a little less, read a little more educational material, invested more thought into your processes at work, and thought a little more about what you did? Then you would experience the compound effect - this idea that small, incremental changes lead to major gains over time. An example of this would be meditating everyday. Sure, it wasn't easy to set aside an hour before bed every night to meditate when I started. However, it was small in comparison to the gains that I made emotionally, psychologically, physically, and spiritually. Eventually I experienced all these things: free from migraines, free from panic attacks, reduced social anxiety, more productive behavior and focus at work, increased immune function (less colds and viruses), a return to my Catholic upbringing and faith, adherence to an exercise routine, weight loss, quitting drinking - and all because I meditate for an hour every day! You may say, "But who has the time to do that?" It is true that time is a limited resource and we all have an inordinate amount of pressure on us these days. However, the compound effect seeks to invest in activities that have a large "return on investment". That is, you get back more than you put it. Did you know that according to research, an average American adult, if adds 15 minutes of exercise per day for the rest of their life, will increase their average lifespan by 3 years? More than that, exercise is also proven to reduce stress, reduce your chance of heart disease, obesity and cancer, increase your cognitive functioning, decrease your tendency to eat unhealthy foods, and has been tied to other healthy habits such as spending less, and drinking less. So when you think, "I don't have 15 minutes a day to exercise," what you are really saying is, "I have time for obesity, cancer, heart disease, and early death"! It's a total no-brainer!
And you can apply the compound effect to anything! From fasting from technological devices, to reading inspirational and motivational books, to spending time with your family, investing in your relationships, and anything else you may seek to improve! The possibilities know no end! The question to ask yourself is "What are some small, positive changes I can make on a daily basis with consistency toward a future goal, behavior, or end result?" Track and monitor these changes, whether through budgeting, fitness app, journaling, etc. and watch the compound effect take hold of your life! You will not be disappointed!