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55 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The new take on exercise., 4 April 2013
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This review is from: The First 20 Minutes: The Surprising Science of How We Can Exercise Better, Train Smarter and Live Longer (Kindle Edition)
This is a good book on new evidence emerging from the study of exercise physiology and its impact on us as individuals, and on our collective (public, population) health. There are a lot of new perspectives emerging in this area, and this book summarises them well, and shows us the implications from them. These implications will and should change the way in which many of us approach working out and getting fit and staying fit. The author is not trained in medicine or science but that hardly matters here- she's interviewed so many good scientists working in this field, and read the relevant papers, so that this book is an excellent review of the cutting edge research in this area.

As far as health goes exercise is good for just about everything- you stay fitter, younger, stronger. Your brain works better. You stay insulin sensitive and you reduce your blood pressure and your risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular diseases (heart attacks and stroke) and death. You live fitter, longer, and with more capacity to function and greater equanimity. Your brain works better and your risk of developing dementia drops significantly. In short in terms of maintaining and developing your personal health and personal ability and function you need to exercise.

Reynolds describes well our relationship to exercise and how it has changed since our ancestors emerged. Basically as humans we are meant to walk a lot (about 8-20 miles) a day. We used to get this either as hunter gatherers, or in our working lives- the idea of "too little exercise" was just not an option for most of our forebears. In the twentieth and twenty first centuries our work is not naturally physically active
and we need to make a positive decision to be active. Reynolds describes well why we should make such a decision in terms of improved function and health, and reduced risk ( or at least significantly delayed onset) of many serious diseases.

Exercise has many components, and our exact forms of exercise depend on our goals. Reynolds describes three main goals from exercise:-
1. Cardio-respiratory fitness- heart and lungs work well- aerobic capacity-measured by our ability to use oxygen (Vo2 max)
2. Strength- weights and resistance
3. Athletic training- improving beyond basic fitness levels- usually in sports specific ways.

She's interesting on the inter-relationships between these three. The old idea that there is a continuum from aerobic workouts to weight training workouts is demolished- having strong muscles boosts our cardio-respiratory fitness significantly. Just concentrating on aerobic and endurance exercise is flawed, and no weight training does not give you big muscles- just toned and effective ones.

Most of the benefits of exercise come from getting moving- the exact form and amount does not matter too much- the benefit is greatest at the start of the exercise programme. In many cases exercises over prolonged periods may not be providing a large amount of increased performance. This is where the high impact interval training (HIIT) seems to come into its own being brief, powerful, and effective at getting significant increases in fitness and power.

Stretching is largely debunked. The idea of good and bad foods for exercise is reviewed well and with great humour. The chapter on tendon problems is a very useful overview. The chapters on the influence of brain on fitness and the road back from fitness to brain function and development is a good description- basically to move is to think and to think is to move. Perhaps the solution to many of our problems will be found on a walk or a run, not by sitting and editing another document. If you are not moving and exercising you are probably not thinking as clearly as you could be.

Once you have read this useful book you will firstly want to exercise, and secondly want to review what you are already doing. All readers will come away from this boom with a renewed sense of why exercise matters, and some ideas about how to do it more effectively- for better results in shorter time. In time there will be some specific workouts based on the science described in this book.

This is a very useful book that is worth reading and acting on.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 14 Apr 2013 15:13:49 BDT
Just finshed this book and agree completely with this superb review

In reply to an earlier post on 14 Apr 2013 20:11:15 BDT
Thank you.

In reply to an earlier post on 20 Aug 2014 21:28:27 BDT
Detailed and helpful appraisal, thank you.
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