I don’t think that I had even heard the word “neuroplasticity” six months ago and now it seems to be everywhere – and for good reason. Recent discoveries about our brain are numerous and exciting. Better than any introduction that I could give to this book is a podcast interview with the author Dr. John J. Ratey which you can access at www.fitnessrocks.org Podcast 095. (Ignore the picture at the top of the website - this really is serious content.) Listen first…and then read. Oh, yes. The title of the book is Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain.
It turns out that there really may be a fountain of youth of sorts. It may not enable us to live forever but it may be a real life-extender. The name of this elixir: human growth hormone. But the surprise is that you don’t have to get a shot or take a pill. With certain types of exercise you can cause the pituitary gland in your brain to unleash HGH. Why do we want more HGH? Are burning belly fat and pumping up brain volume reasons enough?There is so much of interest here. Chapters on learning, stress (good and bad), depression, women’s hormonal changes, aging – and they all seem to benefit from exercise. And as the author demonstrates repeatedly, it’s never too late to start. If you already have an exercise program, there is still something here for you, too. There seem to be some real benefits to "mixing it up" and not getting too comfortable in your routine. Jane Brody in her "Personal Health" column in yesterday's New York Times takes it one step further and discusses the benefits of exercise to those who already have ailments like arthritis, MS, Parkinson's or are in pain or have trouble breathing.
Dante already had it right in The Divine Comedy: "A great flame follows a little spark..." - in this case the spark is exercise and the flame is a life lived more fully. In addition to the book, Dr. Ratey has a terrific website.