In Ultimate Fitness: The Quest for Truth About Exercise and Health, Gina Kolata, science reporter for The New York Times, takes a fascinating journey into the fads, fictions, and genuine innovations that have defined the world of physical fitness. From weight lifting for men and women in the early days, to jogging in the 1970s, cycling in the 1980s, aerobics in the 1990s, and now Spinning, Kolata explains the science of conditioning and the objective evidence behind commonly accepted prescriptions. Among the questions she addresses are: What is the best way to exercise for maximum effect? What is the most effective way to train for endurance versus strength? Why is “maximum heart rate” calculated at 220 minus our age, and how did the formula come into being? Is there really a “fat-burning zone”? Does “spot reducing” work? We feel great after physical exertion, and think our endorphins are surging, right? Kolata shows us how and why we’re wrong. Why is it that some people won’t become fit in spite of exercise? Can exercise alone help reduce cholesterol? Are there special foods or drinks that can help you exercise longer or harder? Do nutritional supplements build muscle? Who’s your trainer and how much training did he/she really receive? Kolata profiles those who successfully challenged conventional wisdom and marketed their inventions, and some who resisted initial criticism only to back down from their claims. With lively sketches of many of the mavericks who have influenced the industry over the years — from Bernarr Macfadden and his controversial contests “for the best and most perfectly formed woman” in the early twentieth century, to Jack LaLanne, who, at the age of eighty-seven, still lifts weights for an hour every morning, to Johnny G, the champion of Spinning — Kolata presents an eye-opening view of the inside workings of a multimillion-dollar business. Lively and engaging, Ultimate Fitness spotlights the machines and machinations, and cuts through the marketing and hype not only to assess what is healthy, but also to help us understand what our obsession with fitness says about American culture today.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux