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Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain Review by Cari Young

John J. Ratey, MD, with Eric Hagerman
Little, Brown and Company
237 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10017
212-364-1312
http://www.johnratey.typepad.com/

Did you know that physical exercise builds and conditions your brain? Do you think of exercise as something you should do? What if you were inspired to exercise? You might be, after reading Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, a book which thoroughly explains the scientific connections between exercise and brain functions.

The "spark" in the title refers to the fact that exercise sparks physical changes that encourage brain cell connections, strengthening the cellular machinery of learning. For example, at a public school in Chicago, students schedule their most difficult subject immediately after physical education class, because of the beneficial effects of exercise on learning. Using scientific studies, statistics from public schools, and evidence from the author's psychiatric practice, Spark explains how exercise improves brain function in these areas: cognition, stress, anxiety, depression, ADHD, addiction, women's health, and aging. This book can be a help for parents seeking remedies other than medication for any of these issues.

This is not a self-help book filled with fluff and feel-good platitudes. To me, a mom with limited science background, this title required careful reading to digest the scientific information. You can use the principles in this book in your homeschool to help your children be better prepared for learning with improved mood, focus, and motivation. Adult brains are also flexible, and parents, as we model lifelong learning, can also strengthen our brains with these same principles. A high school student interested in biology or anatomy would find this book a challenging addition to his or her science curriculum. Although this book assumes evolution and mentions it occasionally, its conclusions depend on current evidence rather than on the accuracy of Darwin's theories.

Product review by: Cari Young, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, July 2008.

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