Dr. John Ratey, author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, talks to Chris Cooper about movement, the mind and CrossFit.
Can burpees help with math homework?
Dr. John Ratey thinks so.
The associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School in 2008 wrote the book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain based on the outstanding example of the Naperville School Board. The book summarized the experience of physical-education teacher Phil Lawler, who had implemented a before-school fitness program at the Illinois school.
“He threw out the balls. No more sports. Just getting fit: running, strength training, CrossFit-type activities for the junior-high-school kids,” Ratey explained. “He had this brilliant idea to use heart-rate monitors, which was a paradigm shift for phys. ed. Nineteen thousand kids in the district and only 3 percent were obese. Seventy-five hundred in the high schools and they couldn’t find a single obese kid. Not one. So this was astounding.”
Just as impressive: the school’s test scores.
“Two years before I learned about it, they had participated in the International Science and Math Test, which is given to every country in the world every three years. The U.S. is always in the low teens. The school district lobbied to participate as a country and came No. 1 in science and No. 6 in math,” Ratey said.
“The low obesity rate piqued my interest. The test scores got me on a plane.”