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!