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The First 20 Minutes: Surprising Science Reveals How We Can: Exercise Better, Train Smarter, Live Longer

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  4,048 ratings  ·  583 reviews

A cutting-edge prescription for exercise by the New York Times “Phys Ed” columnist

At one point or another, nearly every person who works out wonders: Am I doing this right? Which class is best? Do I work out enough? Answering those questions and more, The First 20 Minutes helps both weekend warriors dedicated to their performance and readers who simply want to get and st
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published April 26th 2012 by Hudson Street Press
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May 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
Very good book. The style is a little wordy for me. Similar to 'The Power of Yoga', I'd have preferred to have more bullet points and less history of scientific discoveries. Therefore, I summarized the key points myself:

1) Inactivity is the greatest public health threat of this century. A great deal of the physical effects that we once thought were caused by aging are actually the results of inactivity.

2) Although 'Health' and 'Fitness' are often automatically joined together, they are differen
Gayle Fleming
Jun 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I heard Gretchen Reynolds on NPR and bought the book immediately. As a sixty-four year old woman who ran a marathon at fifty and cycled 334 miles in three days at fifty-five, this book has just been a wealth if new scientific insights on fitness and health. I really appreciate that while many of the research studies are done on young male athletes, she has gone out of her way to find studies on older non-athletes and women. The information on exercise and weight loss was particularly useful and ...more
Jan 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is a very entertaining and informative book about the benefits of exercise. Gretchen Reynolds explores how much, and what types of exercise are really useful for improving one's health and well-being. The more you exercise (up to a point), the better one's fitness. However, there is a law of diminishing returns--you can exercise a little--say 20 minutes a day--and get a significant benefit. or you can exercise a lot, and get just a tiny bit more improvement.

The later chapters in the book we
Literary Ames {Against GR Censorship}
Whether you've never exercised in your life or you're a professional, competitive sportsperson this is a must read.

Exercise helps depression, reduces the negative effects of stress, anxiety, and anger, encouraging a calmer and happier disposition, and makes you smarter from better blood flow to the brain, enhances memory and general brain functioning (neurogenesis). A difference can be seen 6-8 weeks after starting regular exercise. It's also the ultimate anti-aging solution, preventing frailty
Teresa Slack
Mar 02, 2013 rated it did not like it
I wanted to start a new exercise regimen so I picked up this book for inspiration. Unless you've been in a coma since grade school and have learned nothing new in the ensuing decades about fitness, everything within these pages and its never ending paragraphs will give you no updated information. I even checked the publication date to see if The First Twenty Minutes had been released several years ago. Nope, it's a new release.

I would love to copy and paste any paragraph at random from the book
Jan 28, 2013 rated it it was ok
this book was filled with bad jokes and extended descriptions of recent exercise studies that would end with "what does this mean for you? probably nothing." awesome. awkwardly written, full of unnecessary information, and totally unclear who the target audience was -- if this was a book for beginners (as it seemed to be) why include so many studies that pertained information admittedly only relevant to ulta-athletes? the last chapter talked about how periods of exercise throughout the day make ...more
Perci N.
Jul 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
"Inactivity is the greatest public health threat of this century. And it is almost completely preventable."

Picked up and finished this book this morning. Read it mostly while standing or pacing. It's the best non-fiction I've read in years, because it repeatedly shows me that I'm doing it wrong, that society is doing it wrong, and how to fix that and stop sucking ass at life.

The most fit I've been in my entire life was in my early 20's when I was paid to dance 6-7 nights of the week, easily 20+
Jul 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I loved this! For one thing, Gretchen Reynolds is quite funny and down to earth. She amuses me going on about how slow a runner she is (which I don't really believe but I appreciate the self-deprecating tone). There were plenty of things I already knew (stretching before a work out is pointless) but a lot of things that I really didn't (ice baths are pointless and so is massage - physiologically). There were also some comforting things (I'm never going to be flexible; I couldn't sit cross-legged ...more
Jud Barry
May 25, 2012 rated it liked it
The title makes it sound like the kind of ad you'll see on google or facebook (or even goodreads?), the kind that begs you to click through so you can see how a "weird tip" will cause you to "cut flab," and that you learned long ago never to follow because the promise of a quick answer is always false. Always.

So, bad title maybe, but hey, you've already got the book (ideally, it's a library copy), so why not click through? The result is more than a promise kept. Yes, it discusses numerous ways i
Stewart Home
There isn't much in here that anyone with an interest in the subject won't already know. The same research has been widely covered by newspapers and magazines - and in fact the book reads rather like a fitness magazine converted to book format. It is heavily biased towards cardio activities such as running and the chapter on strength training is very thin. Typical of Reynolds' grating journalistic tropes is that when writing about the success of Finnish runners in the 1930s and how this impacted ...more
Jun 03, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: exercise, science
I'm a regular distance runner and I occasionally read Gretchen Reynolds' contributions to the Well Blog at the New York Times. There was much about the book that I enjoyed and some that I hated. My 3 stars average a 1 and a 5, because I think it represented the best and the worst of the science of exercise.

The best: the book showed the importance of any kind of physical activity (even light activity for the First 20 Minutes) for increased lifespan and improved cognitive ability. It gave excellen
May 18, 2013 rated it it was ok
At first I was impressed at how many scientific studies the author relied on, but as I read on, page after page of animal torture just left me feeling disgusted and depressed. If you are someone who cares about animals at all: DON'T READ THIS BOOK. I wish some of the other reviews here had warned me about it!

There is also NO BIBLIOGRAPHY, which I find incredibly suspect given the author's extreme reliance on so many scientific studies/papers to support her book. Lastly, her book seems to be wri
Jan 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
Comments based on advanced reader’s copy. I am an experienced distance runner and former competitive athlete. This is by far the best RATIONAL book about exercise and fitness. The author is a NY Times columnist and she assembles, in a very readable format, quality scientific evidence based elements related to, diet, exercise, fitness, and athletic performance. Forget the money you spend on a personal trainer, exercise equipment, and over-priced crap from charlatans and buy this book when it come ...more
As a friend told me, probably only those who already believe in the value of exercise will read this book, but if others do read it, I think it is one of the best I have read to convince us all that we need to spend more time off the couch. The author has collected a great deal of research that goes into all aspects of exercise, discussing nutrition as it relates to fitness, injury prevention, and the impact of exercise on mental health, quality of life, and longevity. The book is well written, ...more
Feb 03, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: self-help, audiobook
I found this to be a rather pleasant audio book. I especially liked how Gretchen Reynolds described the scientific studies that have been conducted to prove her points. The take away: be as active as you can! Even adding a minimal movement to your day can potentially extend your life. I don't think I would like this book as much as physical book. As an audio book, each chapter was about an hour long and the reader announced each subheading making it fairly easy to follow along. ...more
Robin Tobin (On the back porch reading)
This book blows the top off of many of our long held beliefs with the latest facts and discoveries... I listened to the audio book. I am going to buy a hard copy this weekend.

PopSugar 2020 - Book with 20 in the title.
An intermittently useful jog through exercise science. Little assessment of the reliability of studies or the statistical significance of effects.
Dec 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
Another foray into fascinating exercise science and general nutrition. I'm loving this topic at the moment, as I'm planning on becoming a health coach this year....eeek!!! This gave me an incredible appreciation for how the body behaves before, during, and post-workout, and the ever-changing information that's available on how to complete the most effective workout. There are obviously the alarming statistics for what a body does when it's not in motion, but that's to be expected.
The beachbod
May 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is a book about exercise and living a life with a body that is as healthy as possible until your last decade. How to be as self-sufficient and healthy from age 20 to age 120. I learned much about the benefits of exercise until you take your last breath! Even if you are in your seventh or eighth decade you can begin to exercise and get big benefits that will make everyday life more enjoyable.

This book does a great job covering many exercise related topics. The first half of the book address
May 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
Reynolds has a straightforward writing style - matter-of-fact, perfect for a book about science and health. She looks at many common and ubiquitous beliefs about exercise, training, sports nutrition and uses science to either disprove or reinforce them. Chapters tackle big subjects like the importance of warm-ups, whether or not stretching before a workout really does anything, the "myth" of dehydration, etc. She covers a lot of ground - using case studies of athletes and their trainers, as well ...more
Kara of BookishBytes
Feb 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
This book attempts to summarize current scientific knowledge regarding exercise for health and weight loss. It's very readable and enjoyable (I've read it twice!). Ms. Reynolds' primary conclusions seem to be: all exercise is better than no exercise; high intensity intervals are really good for you (though the exact best ratio of high effort to recovery hasn't been determined); exercise doesn't help much in weight loss, but can help significantly with other health factors. ...more
Jun 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I can't tell you how much this book has changed my thinking about exercise. I have always exercised, played soccer, running. I knew that I did it to maintain my weight and keep my mood up. I had little idea that I was also working my mind. I am adding years to my life. I have been so inspired. I took my bike into the shop this week. I started swimming again. I look so differently at exercise now. I am buying this book for my parents so that they too can see that just moving their bodies, 30 minu ...more
Dec 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best books about fitness I have ever read -- and I have read a bunch of them.

Most of them are full of baloney. Or, to be more accurate, have some good info mixed with a lot of foolishness.

Gretchen Reynolds, however, has distilled the most evidence-based research on the subject of how to exercise most efficiently and effectively as well as how to eat and drink while exercising. Hint: It's not with Gatorade or other special concoctions.
Feb 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
‘So this is a call to arms—and legs, muscles, and lungs—as well as naked self-interest. Each of us needs, almost certainly, to move more’ - Gretchen Reynolds

This was both an educational and motivational read. The author does a fantastic job backing up her exercise tips and myth busting with evidence based research. It has certainly encouraged me to get moving. In fact, I listened to this book while exercising over the last few weeks.
Dave Schaafsma
Sep 22, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Since I keep up on health and exercise news, I learned almost nothing new in this book, but it is up to date and informative and interesting... Well done, all around. Just not the NEWS I was hoping for. I heard her interviewed on NPR, so I got the book...
Jun 10, 2012 rated it it was ok
I want to love this book- everything about it, but where are the citations for the fascinating studies Reynolds mentions throughout?
Mark Gray
Mar 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
An excellent book for anyone who is undertaking exercise or seriously thinking about starting. I certainly learnt loads of new things
Mar 20, 2020 rated it liked it
I was hoping this book would reveal the secrets behind getting skinny and fit, but frustratingly, it turns out there's a lot science still doesn't know, other than that we all should probably be exercising more than whatever we currently do.

You know how some people are bothered by the word "moist"? Well it turns out that I am bothered by the word "swallow," which this book seems to overuse. "Participants who swallowed antioxidants after exercising... ", "Participants who swallowed vitamins... "
Had to return this to the library before I had finished, but I skimmed through it and took a few notes. The information seemed a bit contradictory, but consciously so, as she pointed out that the science of exercise hasn't gone very far. There were several jokes slipped in where I didn't expect them.

1. 3 minutes easy cycling
2. HIIT, intervals of 60 all-out pedaling
3. Rest with 75 seconds low-intensity
4. Repeat 8 to 12+ times
5. Pedal easily at the end of the session (less than 30 minutes)
6. 3 ses
Nov 03, 2017 rated it liked it
An interesting look at what science is learning about exercise and our brains. Essentially - everyone should exercise because it's good for our bodies, our brains and our emotions. We should run or do other aerobic activity and strength train because they work together synergistically. They're not opposites, but they differ in some ways and yet have many similarities. If you prefer one over the other than do it most but get the other type in a couple times a week.

There's a lot more to this book
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