From Publishers Weekly
Everyone knows that exercise is a good thing. But when New York Times science reporter Kolata (Flu) set out to investigate the claims of various fitness regimens, she found that "the tiny pearls of good science are buried in mountains of junk." Much of the accepted wisdom about exercise, it turns out, is false-from the belief that endorphins cause an exertion-induced euphoria to the notion that all individuals, with sufficient effort, can become fit. An avid devotee of "spinning," a type of stationary biking that mimics actual road conditions, Kolata brings both personal enthusiasm and journalistic skepticism to her subject. She traces the history of the fitness movement from the ancient Greeks through the 18th and early 19th centuries, when feats of strength and endurance became a popular means of entertainment. By the 20th century, increasingly sedentary living prompted a new interest in fitness: the jogging fad emerged in the 1970s, followed by aerobics, weight lifting and other activities. Kolata looks at hard data about exercise, but also interviews enthusiasts and promoters, whose devotion to their regimens sometimes transcends the available facts. People exercise for different reasons, Kolata finds. For improving overall health, moderate exercise appears to be sufficient. To improve physical appearance, intense effort is required. To reach a sense of exhilaration and strength, however, one must actually love physical exertion for its own sake. The "truth" about exercise, Kolata concludes, may lie in the view of psychopharmacologist Richard Friedman, who suggests that "exercise is more often a marker of health than its cause." Illus. not seen by PW.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Ever since baby boomers discovered they might not live forever, health and fitness, as well as looking young and svelte, have been major national fads. Whether one wants to develop six-pack abs or simply climb a flight of stairs without wheezing, sorting through the shams and quackery of exercise claims can be a full-time job. Kolata, science reporter for the New York Times and something of an exercise authority by avocation, takes on that task with the fervor of a marathoner. She deconstructs many assertions and myths, and much of the hyperbole of exercise enthusiasts trying to make fortunes off of an unsuspecting public. She reveals the truths behind several so-called scientific studies and asks why certain people will never exercise while some will never stop. Eighty-six-year-old exercise icon Jack LaLanne admits to vanity, but most exercisers like the feeling of control exercise affords. Having researched her sources and done her homework, Kolata also comes up with seemingly sound advice about exercise, weight lifting, personal trainers, machines, pills, and potions. Donna Chavez
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