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Sparking Life - e-newsletter

Exercise is the single most powerful tool you have to

optimize your brain function.                                      John Ratey, M.D.


Sparking Life is a nonprofit organization dedicated to building global awareness of the relationship between exercise and brain performance. We are on a mission to bring movement back into our lives - to improve our children’s learning capacity, to reverse the negative effects of stress, to manage mental health issues such as ADD/ADHD, anxiety, and depression, to alleviate addiction, and to maintain our cognitive abilities as we age.


Founded by John J. Ratey, M.D. and a diverse team of professionals with a common interest in fitness and brain science, Sparking Life is collaborating with schools, governments, medical practitioners, corporations, foundations and associations to inform, assess and implement brain-enhancing exercise programs.


Our hope is that what you read in this newsletter will spark you into action – literally, get you moving! But don’t stop there: Share the fitness-brain connection message with your family, friends and colleagues. Need more information to get you or someone you love off the couch? Visit us on our website,, check out our blog, and read what others say on our discussion forums! And, then contact us to help you transform your school, organization or community.

When we exercise, our brain function is at its best.

Exercise unleashes a cascade of neurochemicals and growth factors that physically bolster the brain’s infrastructure. The neurons in the brain connect to one another through treelike branches, and exercise causes those branches to grow and bloom with new buds, thus enhancing brain function at a foundational level.


Plus, exercise naturally increases levels of serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine - important neurotransmitters that traffic in thoughts and emotions - to improve our mood, alertness and ability to handle stress.


Around the World

In just nine months Dr. John Ratey has travelled more than 100,000 miles – throughout the U.S., Canada, Britain, Copenhagen, Switzerland, Taiwan, and most recently, India. He has been invited to address school districts, university leaders, research scientists, medical professionals, corporate entities – and even heads of state.


The research that Dr. Ratey skillfully presents in his book, SPARK, has generated worldwide interest and action. In particular, he was honored and humbled by the reception he received by President Ma and university officials in Taiwan. Their excitement was measurable – all schools will begin incorporating three days of exercise per week, they have translated the Sparking Life website into Chinese, and 45,000 books were ordered for distribution.


Visit the Taiwan entry on the Sparking Life blog to learn more, and view this video of President Ma and Dr. Ratey on YouTube.



In the News

Interview with Dr. Ratey discussing how exercise optimizes brain function  More


Why Moving Can Make You Smarter  More


Treadmills Put N.B. Students on Learning Track  More


California Court of Appeals has ruled that public schools must comply with state law that requires at least 200 minutes every 10 days  More



John J. Ratey, M.D.

Dr. Ratey is an internationally renowned author, speaker, clinical psychiatrist and professor at Harvard Medical School. The Sparking Life organization has evolved from the widespread interest in his eighth book, SPARK: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. He encourages readers to move closer to their potential by embracing exercise for peak performance of the brain and body.


Physical activity will literally change the way you think!

Ask how you can support our mission through volunteer efforts and donations.


Sparking Life

328 Broadway

Cambridge MA 02139


Contact us

SPARK - The book

Dr. Ratey Receives

Pioneer Award from Eagle Hill School


Sparking Life creates new fitness-based curriculum and Teach the Teacher summer program for EHS

Founded in1967, Eagle Hill School (EHS) is the premier co-educational, college preparatory boarding and day school for students in grades 8-12 diagnosed with learning (dis)abilities and ADD. 


Located in Hardwick, MA, EHS is nationally known for its innovative and progressive approach to learning.  The school 

boasts a 96% college matriculation rate to colleges and universities throughout the United States.


The Pioneer Award, Eagle Hill School's top honor for professionals who make major contributions to the EHS community and the field of education more widely, was presented to Dr. Ratey on February 8th. 


Inspired by his book, SPARK, Eagle Hill School has joined forces with Dr. Ratey and Sparking Life to revolutionize the way 

schools incorporate exercise and education. 


"The recognition of Dr. Ratey with the Pioneer Award is one of those rare opportunities to witness

first-hand something life and world-changing," said Dr. PJ McDonald, Headmaster of Eagle Hill School. "Dr. Ratey's work is going to have an impact far beyond EHS, but we are proud to be the first school to partner with Dr. Ratey and the 'Sparking Life' initiative." 


The Sparking Life - EHS fitness model, organized by the Ratey Research Team, began last month with students starting a five-week fitness 'boot camp' that will get their hearts pumping before first period.

Their Teach the Teacher Summer program will begin in June.


Ratey Research Team

The Ratey Research Team is an education development group working together for a common goal: the integration of science-based exercise interventions in schools to promote all students’ IQ, EQ (emotional intelligence), achievement and physical well-being.


The Ratey Team provides exercise interventions tailored to partner schools for immediate benefit and sustained learning environment change.


A package of training steps, intervention design, measurement and assessment stages, and additional services are designed to meet the needs of the school. 


School Fitness Models and Educators' Guidelines also are available on the Sparking Life website.


Schools Adding Exercise to Improve Academic Programs

Sky Academy, a new charter middle school in Venice, FL, scheduled to open in August 2011, is developing its   
curriculum based on research that proves physical activity builds and conditions the brain for learning. More


SPARK has influenced the development of other programs around the country including schools located in:

Naperville, IL

Natick, MA (Fit Kidz)

Casper, WY

(Roosevelt School) 

Charleston, SC

Farmington, MN

Lincoln, MA (Carroll School)

Oakville and Burlington, Canada (Fern Hill School) 





Being a Good Steward in the War on Aging and Health

by Dr. Harley Ihm, Colorado Springs


In 2001, I experienced a sudden neurological problem that had no evident cause. I pursued diagnosis from one doctor to another until I ended my journey at Mayo Clinic. There I was diagnosed with a condition of the sensory nervous system of unknown origin. At that point, I was depressed, but I knew that all I could do was live life to the fullest however long it lasted.


In 2010, I completed my Doctorate in Biblical Studies in Preaching. My dissertation was on “Branding the Sermon.” I wanted to know why the brain cannot remember some information and cannot forget other information. What was the problem and how could it help in preaching? During my research into corporate branding and various books on narrative preaching and communication, I came across a quote in a leadership book on how we learn. The author quoted Dr. John Ratey’s research from, “The User’s Guide to the Brain,” explaining how the story, narrative lights up the neurons for understanding and retention. Suddenly, it was clear to me why I could remember a sermon from a preacher given over twenty years ago. I could remember his name, although it was the only time I ever saw or heard of him, and I could see the vivid imagery he used that branded my mind forever.


Realizing that I have problems remembering where I leave my car keys, I knew something significant had taken place. The discoveries revealed in Dr. Ratey’s book suddenly helped me understand and became a thread within my dissertation. More


Compelling Research on Exercise and Brain Function 

Exercising attention within the classroom

Liam Hill, Justin H G Williams, Lorna Aucott, June Milne, Jenny Thomson, Jessie Greig, Val Munro, Mark Mon-Williams


This study investigated whether increased physical exercise during the school day influenced subsequent cognitive performance in the classroom. A randomized crossover-design trial (two weeks in duration) was conducted in six mainstream primary schools (1224 children aged 8 - 11 y). 

Findings: General linear modeling analysis demonstrated a significant interaction between intervention and counterbalance group, showing exercise benefitted cognitive performance. More


Fitness, fatness, cognition, behavior, and academic achievement among overweight children: Do cross-sectional associations correspond to exercise trial outcomes?

Catherine L. Davis,

Stephanie Cooper


This study examined associations of fitness and fatness with cognitive processes, academic achievement, and behavior, independent of demographic factors, at the baseline of an exercise trial. 


Findings: Fitness was associated with better cognition, achievement and behavior, and fatness with worse scores. Specifically, executive function, mathematics and reading achievement, and parent ratings of child behavior were related to fitness and fatness. Teacher ratings were related to fitness. More 





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Sparking Life
328 Broadway
Cambridge, MA 02139

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