Sunday, April 24, 2011

Spark! by John J. Ratey and Eric Hagerman

Homo Sapiens no longer needs to walk long distances, run, jump, or catch prey. Our bodies, however, still work best when we move. When we spend our days sitting, we get fat and... dumb.

"Spark" starts with a quote from Plato:
In order for man to succeed in life, God provided him with two means, education and physical activity. Not separately, one for the soul and the other for the body, but for the two together. With these two means, man can attain perfection.
How to summarize "Spark"? Exercise is good for your brain? Yes, but there is much more. Dr John Ratey, a psychiatrist and researcher, spent two years writing "Spark". He describes recent research that proves that physical exercise in many cases works as well, or even better than a pill. The book goes into details what happens in your body when you exercise. It looks at different forms of physical activity: walking, running, aerobics, karate, etc, and different areas of our well being: mental health, aging, menopause, and even cancer.

The benefits of staying active are clear and are proven. Steady exercise: walking, running is essential. Sprinting works differently and is beneficial too. Physical activity that makes the brain work: karate, tennis, and other small team games are important from a different perspective. Exercising with others is better than doing it alone.

My favorite citation comes from page 237: "[...] if you are not busy living, your body will be busy dying."

John Ratey's web page.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

DON'T PANIC - Nearly Everything is Better Than You Think

Cassandra Wilkinson did a lot of reading for this book. References at the end take 20 pages out of total 200. The references are a strong part of this book. This sentence on page 30:
Spending time in stimulating company has been shown to develop our neural pathways [...]
has lead me to A User's Guide to the Brain: Perception, Attention, and the Four Theaters of the Brain by John Ratey, which I need to read one day.

Cassandra gives many examples of fear-mongering and then cites research that shows the opposite. She discusses happiness, family, society, fertility rate, economy, globalisation, war on terror, fashion, politics and other everyday news topics. All in Australian and international context. 

The message stated in the title is clear and powerful: don't worry, this is not the end of world. When you live in fear you are proven to make wrong decisions. When you have faith in other people, progress is made.