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Ultimate Fitness: The Quest for Truth about Health and Exercise
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Ultimate Fitness: The Quest for Truth about Health and Exercise

3.41 of 5 stars 3.41  ·  rating details  ·  145 ratings  ·  27 reviews
From the highly acclaimed New York Times science writer Gina Kolata, the book for people who love exercise as much as they value the truth.

In Ultimate Fitness, 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 wom
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Paperback, 304 pages
Published May 1st 2004 by Picador (first published January 1st 2003)
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Beth G.
Review from my old book log:

This was listed as the Book of the Month over at Lose the Buddha [which was a great blog, but is no longer available], and a quick look at the reviews led me to believe I might find it interesting. I found it fascinating. Kolata writes about the most popular myths around diet and exercise, mining out the grains of truth hidden inside the marketing hype. Personal experience is mixed with interviews with researchers throughout the book. Heart rates, runner's highs, and
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Lp
This book is fine when it comes to the historical information. But when she goes all gee-whiz-how-fit-I-and-my-fabulous-husband are, she loses me. I don't care about your spinning class, Gina!
Beth Barnett
A mixture of a history of ideas about fitness and exercise in the US, including the rise of the Fitness Industry, and descriptions of scientific studies on various fitness-related topics. I'm not an obsessive exerciser, but the book has a lot of interesting tidbits about fitness and exercise fads, myths, and truths. This book won't appeal to everyone, and the author's personal interest in Spinning, specifically, gets tiresome, but it's worth a look for anyone interested in learning more about he ...more
Katherine
This book was, as others have noted, a fast read. I breezed through it, and even at the moments when I paused to say aloud, 'This isn't a great book,' I kept the pages turning. Which says something for it.

It is a blend of the history of the fitness movement, the author's personal involvement in fitness activities, and scientific inquiry into fitness (What's the most effective way to train? Does exercise really make you healthier?) These kinds of weavings can be hard to pull off (I should know; I
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Jessica
Will reading this book make my stomach look like the one on the cover?

I'll let you know!
Joeydag
Written in 2003 by the science reporter of the New York Times, this is a great survey of the subject. Each chapter focuses on a different aspect of fitnes, from the state of the science to the state of the industry. The chapters that bring in the author's personal story are well done. She describes her focus on spinning and trainers in that area.

The things that I want to remember from this book is that A) to be fit does not take much activity - only about 20 minutes a day of light movement. B) T
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Mike
This wasn't as good as I expected it to be, having read lots of very interesting and very readable Gina Kolata pieces in the Science Times over the years.

The chapter on exercise addiction, "Is There a Runner's High?" was really fascinating, and a lot of it was new information to me. I liked the parts about exercise pioneers or entrepreneurs like Joe Weider and Bob Hoffman (and Jack LaLanne and Charles Atlas, who are mentioned in passing a few times), but most of this book and the findings and a
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Victoria
I thought I would learn a lot about "the truth about exercise and health" but I really didn't. What a boring and disappointing reading experience. Kolata, a self-proclaimed "exercise addict" appears to have written this book to gloat about oh-geez how awesome and ultra-fit she and her husband are. She goes on and on and on about Spinning until I was ready to barf. And when she starts explaining what a leg extension machine looks like, or how she does "real" bench presses, and "real" weight lifti ...more
Sarah
Gina Kolata is a skilled journalist. I would hazard a guess she could write about any topic and manage to make it interesting. Having said that, in Ultimate Fitness she chronicles the history of fitness in America, detailing the major players and trends in the industry.
Gerald Prokop
Half the time, I felt like I was reading a Spinning memoir. She goes into great detail about things like what she and her husband wore to their spinning events and how much sweat was wiped off the bikes afterward. The science reporting in the book is fragmented and feels like an afterthought--almost as if her publisher made her throw some science in there because no one wants to read a book about what it's like to sit on a stationary bike for four hours.

It was a quick read and I appreciated the
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Brenda
This is a must read for anyone embarking on any type of fitness journey. The author is a fitness addict but is also a science reporter. I found she combined the two wonderfully and informatively in this book. Aim for your fitness goals with your eyes wide open after reading this book. There are benefits but they may not be what you think they are. Highly recommended!
Brenda
This is a must read for anyone embarking on any type of fitness journey. The author is a fitness addict but is also a science reporter. I found she combined the two wonderfully and informatively in this book. Aim for your fitness goals with your eyes wide open after reading this book. There are benefits but they may not be what you think they are. Highly recommended!
Christine
Some interesting info, seems well-researched, but too heavy on the personal anecdotes. It seemed like she wanted to write this book b/c of her personal obsession with spinning. Fair enough, but don't describe each class with such excruciating detail. Still, I did try a spinning class after this (still didn't like it- I'll stick to the old school step aerobics).
Stacy
Interesting, although I didn't find it as insightful as her previous book, "Rethinking Thin" - probably because there is, as Kolata notes, much less solid research and study on exercise issues. Still, it's a good read for anyone curious about how much of our current knowledge about exercise and fitness is scientific fact, and how much is simply BS.
Kate
Apr 22, 2008 Kate rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: BIZ!
Shelves: health
I normally have several bones to pick with any of Gina Kolata's NYT articles on public health, fitness, or epidemiology. So I read this expecting to throw it across the room many times.... I didn't throw it once. The book had a great balance of solid reporting with personal anecdotes. And it makes me have more respect for Bill Haskell than ever before.
Andrea
One of the most valuable thing I learned from this book is the origin of fat-burning vs. cardio training (low intensity vs. high). Low intensity fat-burning workouts are something of a farce. Ultimate Fitness renewed my childlike excitement over my heartrate monitor, my grown-up toy that is instructive.
Craig
I read this because I enjoyed her FLU book so much; I am not into exercise for the sake of exercise.

This was a very enjoyable and easy read since it was autobiographical in tone. The author relates her own experiences as an "exercise freak" and that is simply a fascinating world.
Celia Powell
Interesting book by a science writer on the history of the fitness industry and the science behind it - while I enjoyed lots of the stories wound around the history and science-talk, I wished that it had come to more conclusions, rather than just considering lots of questions.
Renae
I'm officially giving up on this. I've renewed it from the library 3 times and still haven't managed to get through it. I guess that means it's not that great! I really liked it when she talked about herself and her own experiences but the other stuff, not so much.
Chad Olson
A reread from 2004. Much of it was familiar but still relevant. There's a lot we don't know and just a little that we do. You probably need to workout with intensity and probably need strength training to see results.

Also, Spinning is cool.
Lisa
I unexpectedly got the abridged version from the library. probably would have been better to seek out the original form because I really enjoyed this book. think I'll try her book on Influenza next.
Susan  Odetta
"'Eating alone will not keep a man well,' Hippocrates said. 'He must also take exercise. Health ensues when exercise and food are perfectly balanced. When the balance is off people become ill.'"
Kate
Enlightening. I felt it was not as well organized as her other book, Rethinking Thin. But she frames each chapter with her own experiences as either a reporter or an exerciser, and I enjoyed that.
Nikhila
Not as compelling as her other books, but an interesting read on exercise. Bottom line, 30 minutes every day if you are trying to maintain health, a lot more if you are trying to lose.
MVV
Listened to the two tape abridged version, but got the point. Most of what we hear and read about fitness is gossip, anecdote, and myth.
Tess Anderson
Sep 20, 2007 Tess Anderson rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: fat people who don't know why they're fat
A great book with lots of facts and cited sources - she cuts through a lot of the junk.
Rt
Rt added it
Dec 19, 2014
Carly Movius
Carly Movius marked it as to-read
Dec 16, 2014
Gabriel Figueroa
Gabriel Figueroa is currently reading it
Dec 09, 2014
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Kolata graduated from the University of Maryland and studied molecular biology at the graduate level at MIT for a year and a half. Then she returned to the University of Maryland and obtained a master’s degree in applied mathematics. Kolata has taught writing as a visiting professor at Princeton University and frequently gives lectures across the country. She lives in Princeton, New Jersey, with h ...more
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