Tuesday, 22 January 2013

13 Must-Read Fitness, Health Books

1. The First 20 Minutes, Gretchen Reynolds
The New York Times fitness writer goes beyond her “Phys Ed” column with this thought-provoking book guaranteed to get anyone up and running. She includes the latest scientific findings on improving physical and mental health (no scientific terms included!) to help readers accomplish any fitness goal, from running a 5K to losing weight and lowering stress levels. — LCS

2. Push, Chalene Johnson
Fans of the Beachbody series of workout DVDs will recognize Chalene Johnson as the creator and star of “Turbofire” and “ChaLEAN Extreme.” Now Johnson turns her attention to writing a book that manages to successfully combine diet and exercise advice with tips for increased productivity and overall inspiration. While the title and catchphrases may seem like the typical dime-a-dozen weight loss books out there, the advice is incredibly intelligent, motivating, and innovative. It’s worth a read just for the tips on how to create to-do lists that really work. — LAS

3. Drop Dead Healthy, A.J. Jacobs
In this autobiographical account, Jacobs takes on the satirical challenge of “becoming the healthiest man in the world.” He explores wacky practices like “Finger Fitness,” extreme chewing regimens, and improving his gastrointestinal health by refusing to sit while using the bathroom. Some books might simply extoll the health benefits of these practices and leave readers to feel like failures for not following them; but Jacobs is hilariously honest about the challenge and pitfalls (like, uh, falling into the toilet). A great pick for those who find typical health and fitness books to be too boring or idealistic, and want a laugh-out-loud read that still educates. — LAS

4. Strong Curves: A Woman’s Guide to Building a Better Butt and Body, Bret Contreras and Kellie Davis
Who doesn’t want a better butt? Written by world-renowned gluteal expert Bret Contreras (aka The Glute Guy) and fitness pro (and Greatist contributing writer) Kellie Davis, Strong Curves offers programs to help women develop lean muscle, rounded glutes, and the confidence that comes with the territory. Featuring a comprehensive nutritional guide and over 200 targeted exercises, there’s no excuse not to get that butt into gear. — JS
5. Running With the Mind of Meditation, The Sakyong
Think running is only about speeding down the streets while toning up? This book provides simple lessons that combine mindfulness with physical activity, improving patience, energy, and focus. And while Mipham is a Tibetan lama, his principles are easily accessible for everyone, regardless of fitness or spiritual background. — LCS

6. Eat and Run, Scott Jurek
Wondering how a superstar long-distance athlete gets that way? Scott Jurek’s story begins with his childhood in a low-income Midwestern town, where he hates running but learns discipline and drive from his strict father. In a remarkably humble way, Jurek shows readers how small changes along the way turned him into a vegan ultramarathon runner who can run 165 miles in just 24 hours. With a favorite recipe to close each chapter, Jurek’s tale is inspiring, and may be the perfect kick to get you out of a diet or exercise rut. — LAS

7. The Long Run, Matt Long
Matt Long was a competitive athlete and a firefighter who went into the towers to save lives on 9/11. Then one morning in 2005, while biking around his hometown of NYC, he was hit by a bus and doctors told him it was unlikely he would ever walk again. Over the next few months, Long defied his doctors’ prognosis and rebuilt his former athlete’s body, relearned how to walk (and run and bike and swim), and became a competitive Ironman triathlete. Long’s achievements and attitude are an incredible inspiration that make for a real page-turner. — LAS
8. The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg
While nail biting may be more annoying than harmful, it’s considered a bad habit, along with smoking and overeating. In this science-backed book, investigative reporter Charles Duhigg explains why habits exist and how we can change them. His idea is that we can transform our fitness, productivity, and overall success by understanding how habits work. “The Power of Habit” takeaway: Learn how to change bad habits to lead a happier, more efficient life. — ND

9. The Social Animal, David Brooks
Brooks bridges the gap between fiction and nonfiction by synthesizing landmark psychology studies in a digestible narrative. “Harold” and “Erica” provide two examples of the pursuit and achievement of professional and personal goals. While some readers may ache for either protagonist’s downfall, most will find inspiration from Brooks’ storyline, not to mention a deeper understanding of their own and others’ motivations. The compelling fiction into which Brooks weaves 50-plus years of human behavior research may leave even the least psych-oriented reader feeling like an expert. — KS

10. Mindfulness for Beginners, Jon Kabat-Zinn
From the man who helped popularize the benefits of mindfulness in Western medicine, “Mindfulness for Beginners” provides readers with the tools, wisdom, and support they need to enjoy who they are in any given moment. This collection of reflections addresses a huge range of mindfulness topics, including the value of tuning in to our bodies, how to experience the present moment, how to liberate our thoughts through awareness, and what the heart has to do with it all. The book guides readers through the process of entering and sustaining mindfulness in everyday life. — LN

11. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain
You can read this book out loud or quietly to yourself — either way, it’s chock full of thrilling insights. Cain argues modern American society privileges extroversion over introversion and ignores a lot of the great qualities that introverts have to offer. A self-proclaimed introvert, Cain combines scientific research and personal anecdotes to make her point and to make readers see the world around them in a whole new way. — SL

12. Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman
Don’t be put off by the formidable length — this book is interesting, easy to understand, and probably the most engaging work of nonfiction many of us have read in a while. Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman teaches readers about the two systems of the mind that drive the way we think, and how we can use these systems to help us make better decisions in our business lives and personal lives. — LAS

13. Pathological Altruism, Barbara Oakley
The introduction alone will make you question the motivations underlying selfless behavior. In each chapter a different researcher offers a new challenge to the sentiment of just wanting to help. The best part? Even those without a background in psych can grasp the key ideas here. Pages are peppered with bubble boxes, diagrams, and real-world examples to illustrate a not-so-convenient truth about altruistic behavior that, if understood, might actually help us be better people. — KS