I was given the opportunity to read and review the book, “Spark, The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and The Brain”. By John J. Ratey, MD

I was first introduced to “Spark” at a Multiple Sclerosis seminar at St Luke MS Clinic.

At first glance, you see the sub-headline: The revolutionary new science of exercise and the brain, and say to yourself, what this book could have to do with multiple sclerosis. My first initial impression was I can’t exercise much less do it at the level that could affect my disease. How could this help me?

But hold on a minute partner.

Dr Ratey lays out a case study from Naperville school district in Illinois on how children whom exercise perform better in school. A lot better. While it was impressive to see how children’s performance was changed for the better by a specific exercise regime, I still had trouble making the connection to my life. After all I am unable to walk more than a mile and a half before overheating and suffering from drop foot. Notice I said walk not run.

Never the less I continued through the rest of the book. Finally I arrived at Chapter 10. “The Regimen, Build your Brain”, and it started to make sense as to why you should read this book. The research scientists are proving that you can build your brain. Actually grow new nerve cells and myelin.


I thought you couldn’t rebuild nerves once they had been damaged Well not so. Neurologist Scott Small says. “It was at his Columbia University lab, in 2007, where they saw the telltale signs of neurogenesis for the first time in live humans “

Neurogenesis is defined as the creation of nerves.

Dr. John Ratey states in his book “Spark”,

“He and his peers view exercise primarily as a surefire trigger to increase the growth of new cells. It’s a similar story with many of the other positive effects of exercise I’ve discussed, from increasing neurotransmitters and neurotrophic factors to releasing factors from the muscles that build new capillaries in the brain and encourage synaptic plasticity”.

That was all I needed to read. I dug out my exercise bike and made a determined effort to start my exercise program. I couldn’t run but I could sit on my stationery bike and peddle till my hearts content. The key was to do it every day. So, I now ride my bike for 30 minutes a day at a minimum. At first it was hard, but now after six months it is just a part of the routine. Each day it is easier to keep a steady pace.

Raising your heart rate is the key to starting neurogenesis. You will need to calculate your base heart rate. Take 220 minus your age, and then calculate 55%, 65%, 75% and 90% or your maximum heart rate. “You should be trying to exercise in the moderate level (65 -75) at least four time per week and twice a week you should be trying to achieve high intensity or 5 – 90 percent.”

Don’t refuse to start today simply because you can’t achieve these results. When I am struggling to walk back to the car after a walk and look like I just spent the last fours hours at the bar, I simply say to myself, “I am out here!!” and that is the most important thing. So start today, you will never regret it. What is good for the heart is good for the brain. So get out there and start moving.

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