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Drop Dead Healthy: One Man's Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection

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Goodreads Choice Award
Nominee for Best Humor (2012)
New York Times bestselling author and king of “immersion journalism” A.J. Jacobs tackles his most challenging experiment yet: a yearlong mission to radically improve every element of his body and mind—from his brain to his fingertips to his abs.

From the bestselling author of The Year of Living Biblically and The Know-It-All comes the true and truly hilarious story of one person’s quest to become the healthiest man in the world.

Hospitalized with a freak case of tropical pneumonia, goaded by his wife telling him, “I don’t want to be a widow at forty-five,” and ashamed of a middle-aged body best described as “a python that swallowed a goat,” A.J. Jacobs felt compelled to change his ways and get healthy. And he didn’t want only to lose weight, or finish a triathlon, or lower his cholesterol. His ambitions were far greater: maximal health from head to toe.

The task was epic. He consulted an army of experts— sleep consultants and sex clinicians, nutritionists and dermatologists. He subjected himself to dozens of different workouts—from Strollercize classes to Finger Fitness sessions, from bouldering with cavemen to a treadmill desk. And he took in a cartload of diets: raw foods, veganism, high protein, calorie restriction, extreme chewing, and dozens more. He bought gadgets and helmets, earphones and juicers. He poked and he pinched. He counted and he measured.

The story of his transformation is not only brilliantly entertaining, but it just may be the healthiest book ever written. It will make you laugh until your sides split and endorphins flood your bloodstream. It will alter the contours of your brain, imprinting you with better habits of hygiene and diet. It will move you emotionally and get you moving physically in surprising ways. And it will give you occasion to reflect on the body’s many mysteries and the ultimate pursuit of health: a well-lived life.

402 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2012

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A.J. Jacobs

37 books1,838 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,752 reviews
Profile Image for Melki.
5,800 reviews2,342 followers
August 15, 2014
Coffee is bad for you.

No, now they're saying it's good for you.

Well, how can avocados be good for you? They're full of fat.

Yes, but it's the good kind of fat.

There's a good kind of fat?


You can drive yourself nuts trying to figure out what is good for you and what is unhealthy. (Last time I checked, being nuts was definitely UNhealthy.)

Luckily, A.J. Jacobs is around to investigate, using his own body as his guinea pig, and give you the skinny on being healthy. (And, yes, being skinny is usually healthier, dammit!) He tries fad diets, exercise crazes and CPAP machines so you don't have to waste your time and money on things that don't work. Only...some things work for some people and not for others. And some things work if you believe they work. So, there are no real answers here, other than move more, eat less. But, if you're looking for a fun, occasionally educational time, read this book. (Hopefully while you're walking on a treadmill.)

As usual, the best parts of Jacobs' books are the really wacky, yet undeniably true facts he manages to unearth, like:

-- You have more germs in your gut right now than humans that ever lived on earth.

-- Graham crackers were invented to quell the passions in hormonal adolescent boys.

--If you spend lots of time reading on the toilet, better order a case of Preparation H now; prolonged sitting whilst shitting causes hemorrhoids.

--THIS irresistible quote by a renowned urologist: "The penis is the dipstick of the body's health."

--And, did you know that musical conductors live such long lives because they spend so much time flapping their arms about?

That last one impressed me so much, I've made an attempt to move my arms a bit more wherever I go. Yes, I look like a crazy person. Yes, people are laughing at me. All I can say is, laugh now. I'll be that old, old lady at your funeral, wildly swinging her arms as she laughs and laughs.
Profile Image for Lacie.
51 reviews11 followers
December 4, 2012
Now, this is a writer with whom I can sit down and drink organic smoothies. I consider myself a bit of a closet health nut -- I say closet health nut, because you might not be able to tell by the size of my thighs that I am much of a health nut at all. But A.J.'s humble quest to become the strongest, most virile hunk of masculine flesh alive is one that I'd empathize with. At the very least, I can read his book and feel justified in his inevitable conclusion that THIS is the reason why one shouldn't knock oneself out trying to pursue the epitome of good health; my excuse is moderation and unavoidable mortality.

When I wasn't laughing to the point of tears, I did mentally underline some doable gems from his breadth of research:
1. Mindfulness is key to enjoying a smaller plate of food.
2. Look for every opportunity to move. (I am the nut who keeps hand weights in the car for long commutes.)
3. Take the time to take a break. Truly value things like sleep and silence.
4. Some of us do get lightheaded, weak, and gassy on a vegan/vegetarian diet. (This had been my experience as well, so I laughed a little at discovering that I wasn't the only one.) His diet wasn't totally carnivorous, so much as light on empty carbs and more substantial on fruits and vegetables.
5. Short triatholons do exist! I will have to do one of them sometime.
6. Training the brain might be something to look into.

Sadly, after reading, I never got around to actually going to the gym (time constraints, as usual), but I did honor my favorite chapter -- calorie reduction and mindfulness -- by eating one cheeto at a time, mentally envisioning the taste of each and carefully chewing 20+ times before swallowing. It's not the epitome of health, per se, but someone's got to start somewhere.
Profile Image for Peter.
12 reviews
August 26, 2012
After this book I rate AJ Jacobs as one of my favourite authors. The book contains enough facts to make it a credible read. However, it is his OCD that adds the humour to his readers (but not necessary to his long suffering family). Well worth a read.
Profile Image for Megan Rowe.
102 reviews11 followers
July 10, 2012
Reading this book made me realize how paranoid I really am, because, as I was reading it, the author kept talking about how much he was freaking out his family members with the drastic things he was doing, and I just kept thinking "Well, that's reasonable." In fact, the book might have made me MORE paranoid for a little while, just because I realized all of the things that I hadn't considered. Unlike Jacobs, I do read The Cat in the Hat to my son, but I do think the Cat could make a pretty infamous crime team with the Kool Aid Man, and I'm sure Jacobs would have something to say about sugaring children's water. In the end, he came to the conclusion that moderation was best, and he made it very easy for the reader to arrive there with him. I found his book very funny and well-written, and I'm sure I will pick up some of his previous books at some point.

I just wanted to add that there were a couple times that this book almost made me cry, and it was unexpected--you don't realize how attached to these people you become--and I thought that it was surprising, and a reflection on how subtle and effective of a storyteller Jacobs is.
Profile Image for Lena.
Author 1 book341 followers
August 5, 2012
This book is the latest stunt memoir by AJ Jacobs, the man who previously worked on his mind by reading the encyclopedia and his spirit by living according to the Bible. Now it's time for the body, and Jacobs spent two years focusing on how to be healthier in all areas from his teeth to his toes.

When it comes to matters of health, everyone has an opinion, and they usually contradict each other. Jacobs does a decent job of providing a balanced look at many of his subjects, including whatever actual science may or may not be behind them, through such moments as letting his toxin-obsessed Aunt Marti banish his plastic shower curtain and conventional cleaning products while interviewing a medical professional who argues that our robust livers are more than up to the task of dealing with the hazards modern living throws at us.

Though the subject of health can be a serious one, the tone of this book is generally breezy and amusing, with a couple of (supposedly good for you) laugh out loud moments thrown in. It's also interesting to see the results of Jacobs' experiments on himself; though personal anecdote is an unreliable way of determining the overall effectiveness of a particular intervention, it's the one that matters the most to us individually and the only tool we have to evaluate some of the more outlandish ideas presented.

I did enjoy this book and might have given it four stars if I wasn't already familiar with most of the information covered. If I were someone who hadn't already spent a lot of time researching health, however, I would have found this a very accessible and inspiring guide to making positive health changes.
Profile Image for Jennifer Rayment.
1,246 reviews52 followers
April 12, 2012
The Good Stuff

I think this is my favorite non-fiction books this year
Author is self deprecating and you know I adore that in a writer
Truly fascinating, unique and positively hilarious
Touched by his obvious love for his wife and children and the appreciation he has for them putting up with all his shenanigans
I need to read all the rest of his books now
Has a "Super Size Me" feel to it
He is a master at transitioning from one topic to the next - very impressive!
Classy and tactful
I have never laughed this hard while reading a non-fiction book before & I have read ALOT of hilarious non-fiction
Enjoyed the comments from his wife about some of the things he did -- she sounds like a fabulous woman
Best idea ever for motivating someone to stop doing something - don't want to spoil it for you but page 231 in my ARC
The bit about Coco Chanel will make you laugh
Inspired me to make some changes in my life

The Not So Good Stuff

If he was my husband I would have killed him by now with all the crazy stuff he does
When I read about the Dr who actually performs surgery to change the sounds of your farts - I laughed so hard the cat jumped off my lap and left nasty scratch marks on me -- A.J. you owe me some polysporin
Now have sudden urge for dried mango's

Favorite Quotes/Passages

"I want to be around to teach the importance of having compassion and why the original Willy Wonka is superior to the remake."

"If done properly, with enough protein and B12 supplements, it's certainly better than the Standard American Diet. (Then again, eating nothing but asbestos sandwiches is probably better than the Standard American Diet.)

"His quotes are both hilarious and inspiring: "Fifteen minutes to warm up? Does a lion warm up when he's hungry? 'Uh-oh, here comes an antelope. Better warm up.' No! He just goes out there and eats the sucker." I printed that out and put it on my wall next to the passage about Carl Sagan."

"Though in the case of my children, the rate is much higher. It's amazing how a strip of sticky plastic will make my kids' pain vanish. Lucas will be howling about a stepped-on finger, but as soon as the SpongeBob Band-Aid touches his pinkie, he is all smiles. My sons are so convinced of the magical healing powers of Band-Aids, they think they can solve almost any problem. A couple of years ago, when our Sony TV blew a fuse, Jasper stuck a Band-Aid on the screen hoping to revive it."

What I learned

About who created the graham cracker and why he created it (No I am not telling you - go buy the book - or go to your local library and pick up a copy - and while you are there tell the Library workers how wonderful they are -- and maybe bring them some chocolate)
Tons of other fascinating facts about health and diet that sorta scared me at times
About Blueberries - trust me that was interesting

Who Should/Shouldn't Buy

Yup this one is a highly recommended read for everyone
This will be a Christmas purchase for the brother in laws -- all FOUR of them

5 Dewey's

I received book from Simon and Schuster in Exchange for an honest review
942 reviews48 followers
October 10, 2012
A.J. Jacobs is getting tired and flabby--and I'm talking about his book writing, not his physical condition. He has done the same gimmick for a number of books now, where he transforms his life by giving his all to a specific subject, and it's just not that interesting any more. It lacks creativity and proves him to be somewhat dim-witted.

In this case he tries to follow all the advice books, diets and research on health. The problem is that there are thousands to choose from and many of them are contradictory. So he focuses on some of the weird ones, like the guys who live like cavemen and think we should hunt meat and eat it raw. Instead of this coming across like an intelligent study of the subject, it seems like one big joke.

His writing style is very self-centered and that gets dull fast. He's just not that interesting of a person and while he's self-deprecating he also is very unaware of how disgusting or insulting he can be. His subtle put-downs of his wife, family and friends isn't funny.

So if you've read his other books this one isn't much different and certainly is far from the best. If this is your first exposure to Jacobs you may find it somewhat interesting but it's overdone and not the taut review of the subject that it could be. What would make an interesting magazine article makes for a very boring book.
Profile Image for Heather.
501 reviews14 followers
June 16, 2016
For "The Know-It-All," A.J. Jacobs read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica. For "The Year of Living Biblically," he attempted to follow every rule in the Bible for a year. For "The Guinea Pig Diaries," he did a whole bunch of crazy stuff, including practice Radical Honesty and attend the Academy Awards disguised as a movie star. Now, in "Drop Dead Healthy," he chronicles his latest endeavor: trying to become the healthiest person alive. Basically, this means doing a ton of research and meeting with lots of experts, then trying all the different things that are supposed to make human beings more healthy. Jacobs focuses on different parts of the body--the heart, the lungs, the stomach, the skin, etc--for a month each and writes about what did and didn't get results. And, of course, drives his poor wife, Julie, crazy during the whole thing.

I have enjoyed all of A.J. Jacobs' books--in fact, I like his style so much that I originally subscribed to Esquire magazine just to read more of his writing between books. I like experimental journalism in general, but I especially appreciate the goofy but thoughtful approach Jacobs uses. Obviously my expectations for "Drop Dead Healthy" were high, and I was not disappointed. As usual, Jacobs really did his research and covered angles that I hadn't even thought of. It did seem a bit overwhelming in some places; perhaps it would have been less staggering if he'd chosen a more narrow focus for the project. There's just so much information out there and so many experts who contradict each other, so maybe Jacobs bit off more than he could chew. Still, I actually learned quite a bit. Sure, there's plenty of stuff that we've all heard before--always eat breakfast, move as much as possible, and just suck it up and floss, for goodness' sake--but he weeds out some things that don't work and comes up with some good tips for actually doing some of the things the experts recommend. And I was cracking up through the whole thing. Jacobs isn't afraid to make fun of himself, and there are certainly plenty of opportunities to do so in a book about trying to be more healthy (think feeling wimpy next to the muscleheads at the gym and trying poop without sitting down). The best thing about this book, however, is that it made me much more aware of my health and how I treat myself. It sort of gave me a wake up call about how much better I'll feel if I do a few small things for my health, and it definitely motivated me to eat more fresh, local foods; get more sleep; move more throughout the day; and more. "Drop Dead Healthy" is a book I'd recommend for anyone who feels like they need a boost in inspiration and wants to have some fun along the way.
Profile Image for Elliot Ratzman.
516 reviews67 followers
July 10, 2012
Oh, AJ Jacobs—how I love reading your books! Let me consider the ways. First, they are chock-full of interesting facts, studies and expert opinion. In this one, he consults health professionals, eccentrics and innovative (or quack) practitioners that help him explore the world of the body, its enemies and its allies—from creating a treadmill desk, working out like a caveman to exploring raw food diets. Second, Jacobs is clever and laugh-out-loud funny. His intelligence and self-deprecation always amuse me and put me in a great mood. Third, his wife Julie is the perfect character in all of his books—sarcastic, droll, eye-rolling and hilarious. They make an excellent team. Fourth, he respects all of his subjects, showing them in their all-too-human light without condescending. Finally, we get to follow Jacobs undergoing his experiment; here, getting into shape, eating better, and figuring out how to live an alternative lifestyle while staying true to his family. May a thousand AJs bloom!
Profile Image for Arminius.
205 reviews50 followers
March 8, 2016
After listening to A.J. Jacobs talking about his book “Drop Dead Healthy” on the Doctor’s show on Sirius radio I thought to myself I need to read this. Mr. Jacobs tries many different fitness exercises and nutritional trends attempting to find out what works and what doesn’t.

I like how he systematically looks at each part of the body and then seeks the corresponding expert to tell him how to make it better.

I do not think he adds a significant amount of unfamiliar information about fitness however. What I took from this book is that any type of exercise as long as you work up a sweat is good. Also, you should attempt to incorporate movement in your life. Sitting is unhealthy so try and avoid it as much as you can. Walk or ride a bike to go places when you can. Walk the stairs instead of the elevator. This information isn’t new but it is accentuated in this book.

One of the more interesting theories he discovers is the Placebo effect power. It was recommended to him to see an acupuncturist to cure his shoulder pain. The acupuncturist used just three needles and his pain was relieved. He told this to his trainer. The trainer informed Mr Jacobs that he gets needles all over his body when he goes to acupuncture. Mr Jacobs concluded that because he thought that the acupuncture would work is what made it work. He also found out that the Placebo effect works better the more outrageous the cure seems to be.

Other statements presented are fairly good advice, if they work. For example, proper posture improves your health. Also sunlight appears to help your eyes. In addition, the hands seem to be connected to the brain. Hand stretching then may help brain function.

The book solidifies current exercise and nutrition information and brings light to some other information in an entertaining, and sometimes funny, way.
Profile Image for Jerzy.
475 reviews107 followers
October 1, 2012
As with Jacobs' other books, there is a breadth of laughs and aha moments, and less so on the depth. You won't learn the full ins and outs of every health fad, but it's good entertainment, and at least this book comes with appendices summarizing the health tips he really thought were worth keeping.

The sections with his grandfather are touching, and Jacobs' sons are friggin' adorable. Their logic puzzles are great:
The trick is, instead of offering three or four items, Lucas gives only two options. He'll ask me, "Which one of these doesn't belong: the chair or the tomato?" "Chair?" I'll say. "No, tomato." It's more challenging than a Zen koan.

Also, Nike's "Just Do It!" slogan came from the final words of a murderer about to be exectured. I can't find it quite as motivating anymore.

I still need to watch the Steven Pinker talk on cursing that he mentions: maybe this one?

The tips I really liked:
* portion control through smaller plates, more chewing, putting down the fork between bites, and eating an apple 15 minutes before a meal
* make healthy food more appetizing by making it crunchy (i.e. put sunflower seeds on salads); and start the day with protein, not carbs
* treadmill desks not only help you lose weight but can make you more productive and clear-minded once you get used to one
* rubbing your own shoulders reduces levels of cortisol (stress-related hormone)
* reading on the toilet (and generally sitting there a long time) causes swelling of veins in certain places where you do not want swelling
* after brushing and flossing, the next best tooth-care tip is to chew sugar-free gum after meals
* it's possible to sharpen your sense of smell, for example by trying to identify the bottles in your spice rack without looking (I'd love to try this!)
* scents can be relaxing but, despite aromatherapy's generalizations, it's very personal for everyone and often linked to memories; find a smell that relaxes you and carry it around (Jacobs carries around a little almond oil vial)
Profile Image for Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance.
5,826 reviews283 followers
June 18, 2012
I like to rate books the way I rate food; books and food can be (1) delicious and (2) nutritious. Some books, like chick lit and mysteries, are mostly just delicious. Some books, like history books, are mostly just nutritious.

A. J. Jacobs’ books are a little of both. Yummy and good-for-you.

Especially this book. Drop Dead Healthy, like all of Jacobs’ books, is the story of Jacobs attempting to challenge himself to do something very difficult. This time Jacobs takes on the challenge of becoming very healthy. Very, very healthy. And, like all of his books, Jacobs loves to push himself to extremes. (Who can forget the chapter in Year of Living Biblically when Jacobs tells how he went to the park in NYC and began to follow the Biblical edict to stone adulterers?)

Jacobs, in his quest to become very, very healthy, attempts to eat right, exercise properly, experience quiet, lower his stress, de-toxify his home, breathe better, have a perfect night’s sleep, stand up straight, see better….Whew! It is exhausting to just read the list of all the things he attempts to do in order to try to be the world’s healthiest person.

Yes, exhausting but also hilarious. Jacobs doesn’t do anything halfway. He is torn, at one point in the book, between trying to decide whether to wear earphones (to mute the noise of city life) or a helmet (to protect his skull). (His poor wife. I always think about his poor wife when I read his books. Did she have any idea what she was in for when she married him?!)

You can’t help but take in a little of the knowledge about good health that Jacobs shares in bits and pieces all through the book.
Profile Image for Diane.
1,080 reviews2,654 followers
May 8, 2012
This is the second book by A.J. Jacobs that I've read, and it didn't disappoint. Jacobs is such a funny and clever writer that I chose "Drop Dead Healthy" to keep me company during a particularly stressful week of grad school.

In this book, Jacobs spends two years trying to be as healthy as he can. He tries new exercises, he experiments with different diets, he creates a "treadmill desk" so he can walk while he writes. He even went to a sleep clinic to try to fix his snoring. It's a fun look at the health craze in America, but it isn't preachy. And once again, I felt a bit sorry for his wife who had to put up with all of his shenanigans.

Note: If you have a sense of humor about religion, I also recommend Jacobs' book "The Year of Living Biblically."
Profile Image for Ren.
1,282 reviews13 followers
March 16, 2017
As with his previous books, Jacobs tackles another topic with humor along with his research and using himself as a guinea pig. He points out how much conflicting information is out there and puts a lot of it to the test. While there is some good advice, this is a book meant for entertainment and did that pretty darn well. None of get out of this life alive and no matter what you do, sometimes illness comes anyway, but that doesn't mean we should just give up and eat crap while vegging on the couch. Just don't get obsessive and miss out on living your life.
Profile Image for Crystal.
23 reviews
July 9, 2012
Entertaining Brysonesque read. Originally, I wrote that this "isn't a book that you read to learn a lot about being healthy. It's not loaded with facts and studies but is nonetheless informative and reminds you to consider that there are many facets to healthful living despite how narrowly we focus on diet and exercise." However, as I read through my highlighted passages, it is in fact loaded with important facts. It's written in a light Bryson, humorous style that doesn't make it feel like a weighty non-fiction book. I've been so time-pressed lately it's a struggle to find time to finish a book, but this one was worthy of any free minute I could find.

To succinctly summarize the book, Jacobs addresses all aspects of our health, as stated at the start of the book, "Our well-being is an accumulation of hundreds of little choices we make every day—what to eat, drink, breathe, wear, think, say, watch, lift, and smear on our skin."

Jacobs also shares personal stories that remind us that no matter what we do, unfortunately, we're still mortal. These and many details from the book will stay with me a long time.

Following are some of my favorite passages. Stop reading now if you want to discover all these wonderful facts yourself.

But the more I read, the more I realize an unfortunate truth: Sitting and staring at screens all day is bad for you. Really bad, like smoking-unfiltered-menthols-while-eating-cheese-coated-lard-and-screaming-at-your-spouse bad. Michelle Obama is right. We need to move. Chairs are the enemy. Sitting puts you at risk for heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and some types of cancer, including colon and ovarian.

One option is Lasik surgery, which I’m still mulling. But I recently met one of the inventors of the Lasik technology, and guess what? He still wears glasses. He’s wary of taking the risk. That gave me pause.

Senses, Diane Ackerman writes about how Cézanne’s fuzzy still lifes and landscapes might be partly the result of his poor vision. (His doctor commanded him to wear spectacles, but apparently Cézanne refused, calling them vulgar.) Degas had even more optical woes. He was both nearsighted and extremely sensitive to light, one of the reasons he might have preferred indoor scenes to landscapes. If Degas’s eyes had been stronger, we might have been looking at banal sunsets instead of his wonderful ballerinas.

I moved my bedtime from 1 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. It was an act of trust. I had to trust my future self that he would be more efficient tomorrow if I went to sleep now. I had to convince myself that sending postmidnight e-mails was counterproductive. Turns out I didn’t trust myself too well. Most nights I was still up at 12:30 a.m.

A survey by the National Association of Home Builders says 60 percent of custom houses will have dual master bedrooms by 2015.

About Jack Lalane: “People thought I was a charlatan and a nut,” he said. “The doctors were against me. They said working out with weights would give people heart attacks and they’d lose their sex drive.” He started out as a junk-food addict but had his Road-to-Damascus moment when he was fifteen and attended a health lecture. His diet from then on consisted of raw fruits, vegetables, fish, oatmeal, and egg whites—come to think of it, pretty much my diet.

The no-sugar diet is ridiculously hard to sustain, and sustain it I won’t. But just two weeks of sugar fasting improved how I felt. I had more energy, fewer aches and pains, and better workouts. As always, the placebo effect shouldn’t be discounted. But I’ve become more antisugar as a result of this mini-experiment.

The other day, though, I had a breakthrough. I listened to a segment on the great science show Radiolab about bad habits. It featured an interview with Thomas Schelling—the Nobel Prize–winning economist who came up with now-self-vs.-future-self concept of egonomics.
(Find it here: http://www.radiolab.org/people/thomas....)

The health benefits are huge, he says. Laughter lowers the level of the stress hormone cortisol. It boosts immunity and reduces pain. A University of Maryland study found that big laughers had a 40 percent lower rate of heart disease than nonlaughers. (So there!)

And indeed, so far, science shows no link between cancer and stress. That’s important to state, because much of America believes otherwise. Sapolsky cites a 2001 study where the majority of patients believed their breast cancer was caused not by genetics, diet, or environment, but by stress.

Just contemplate the awful spectacle of surgery without anesthesia. If you read the absorbing book The Pain Chronicles by Melanie Thernstrom, you learn that doctors refused to tell their patients what day surgery was scheduled for. They simply showed up at the patient’s house on a random Tuesday or Thursday for a surprise operation. Otherwise, the patients would commit suicide the night before. It was that bad.

Ratey, our Paleolithic forefathers walked eight to ten miles a day. Our grandparents expended an average of eight hundred calories a day more than we do.

Biomedical Research Center compared heart problems in men who spent more than twenty-three hours a week sitting, and those who sat for less than eleven hours. The big sitters had a 64 percent higher chance of fatal heart disease. And the bad news doesn’t end there. The sitters weren’t slackers. A lot of them went to the gym when they weren’t sitting. But their workouts couldn’t fully overcome the damage from their desk chair.

A Nippon Medical School study showed that two-hour walks in a forest caused a 50 percent spike in natural killer cells, a powerful immune cell.

But wait. There's more. Read the book for yourself to see.
Profile Image for Julie Bestry.
Author 2 books23 followers
February 2, 2018
Let's say you'd like to be healthier but you're overwhelmed by reading all of the conflicting magazine articles and books regarding what's the healthiest way to eat, exercise, improve your sleep, avoid toxins, boost your immunity, have better sex, prevent damage to skin and eyes and ears and whatnot, and feel secure in definitive answers.

Yeah, good luck with that.

A. J. Jacobs has made a career out of experimenting with his life -- he read the Encyclopedia Britannica for a year, he lived by (Old and New Testament) Biblical principles for a year, he did a bunch of mini-experiments, and now, he's spent two years trying to improve his health by interviewing experts and living by their advice. Mixed in are tiny anecdotes regarding his grandfather (who would have made a wonderful subject of a book), his long-suffering wife, and his little boys. Considering he's an editor at Esquire, you'd expect a few juicy work stories, but nope.

Jacobs is workmanlike; each chapter is a bit like a blog post -- a concentration on one health area with a few sub-areas and a round-up of his monthly progress. It's lightly self-deprecating, and certainly easy enough to read. At times, it's a relief that Jacobs is going to all of this effort, because it sounds exhausting, and at times depressing. And still, very little is definitive.

The problem is that science can lack certainty, so some of what Jacobs conveys is the certitude with which some experts speak and the conflicting nature of so-called experts on the same topics. He (mostly) treats out-there wackadoodles with respect, but late in the book, I found that he interviewed a man I know personally to be abusive and to have fabricated the accuracy and recency of his credentials, which makes me call into question everyone else interviewed.

So, if you like reading about people doing life experiments (as I do), this may be up your alley. You may find Jacobs annoying, which, after 300+ pages he can be, and you'll have to decide for yourself which approaches will work (or at least work for you), but it's well-written and, at worse, benign.

Warning, a few of the personal anecdotes are sad; if you're in mourning, you may want to move this to the bottom of your pile.

Finally, Jacobs does provide some great resources in case readers want to follow up on their own. So, you may not get certitude, but you may find some inspiration and options.
Profile Image for Lisa.
794 reviews17 followers
March 10, 2013
Best selling author, A.J. Jacobs writes about his attempts to adapt to life styles in a humorous way. You may remember The Year of Living Biblically, The Know-It-All, and My Life As an Experiment.

In this book he strives to become the healthiest man in the world by consulting experts and their advice and incorporating his funny version of that advice into his life.

In each of the first 26 chapters he focuses on one part of the body and searches for ways one could incorporate actions to perfect that part or system.

For instance in the first chapter,"The Stomach", subtitled, "The Quest to Eat Right", Jacobs made a list of 100 diets. Then he researched studies and consulted experts, and he came up with an approach he could live with for eating right. It's all that stuff you have heard before, but Jacobs says it in an entertaining way!

At the end of each chapter he breaks down how he is progressing with his change of lifestyle. He also pokes fun of himself and his idiosyncrasies. He is a germ-a-phobe and his wife is not. I can relate; I haven't had even a cold in over a year and it is my personal quest to see how long I can go without being sick.

There were certain chapters that I was more interested in than others, like "The Brain: The Quest to Be Smarter". As I have gotten older I have found it more difficult to learn and remember; and I forget things! Unfortunately, I don't think I learned anything new in the chapter, but I will keep tutoring math in hopes that brain exercise will pay off. Like Jacobs, I agree that exercising the body also helps to keep the mind sharp. My own advice: if you belong to a gym that has Expresso Bikes, try those because they will exercise your body and mind at the same time. I love Expresso Bikes!!
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I do the races, but I love the dragon chases:
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I was also very interested in the chapter on avoiding the sedentary life. I've looked at desks you can stand at and I had heard about treadmill desks, such as this one:
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I looked online for Jacobs' homemade treadmill desk, but couldn't find it. It is pretty interesting.
My husband keeps his treadmill in my office, and I have decided that when I have reading to do, I will do it at low speed on the treadmill. I do use the treadmill every day (M-F)at the Y at a brisk pace, but this will be slower, just to get me out of a chair at a time I would ordinarily be sitting. I just started today and I have used it for a total of about 25 minutes. I really don't think I can write while on the treadmill; just trying to make notes on the what I was reading was not so good. I do think this may be the most beneficial thing I take from this book.

Profile Image for Judy.
1,945 reviews28 followers
July 29, 2012
Dear A.J. Jacobs. I just love the fact that you are willing to devote years of your life for my education and amusement. Your "One Man's Humble Quest" series is a delight of the first order. I've talked about your first two books in the series, "The Know-It-All" and "The Year of Living Biblically" until my friends have asked me to stop. But "Drop Dead Healthy" is going to get that conversation going again. An excellent job. Congratulations. For those that I won't be seeing in the next few days--get this book and read it. While on a vacation in the Caribbean, Jacobs is hospitalized for tropical pneumonia. Lying in the hospital, feeling sorry for himself, remembering his wife's repeated comments that she doesn't want to be a young widow with three children, and realizing that his middle age body looks like a "python that swallowed a goat", Jacobs decides that he is going to transform himself into the world's healthiest human. But rather than simply reducing his food intake and getting more exercise, Jacobs wants to embark on a two-year quest to get healthy while exploring the range of available diet and fitness advice from across the spectrum. And expensive? Oh yes, it was expensive. Earphones to dull the noise of every day life, a helmet to be used as a safeguard while walking the streets of New York, and a juicer were only some of the deliveries to his apartment. He also purchased a treadmill and, after finding out that running on it was disruptive to his entire building, he converted it to a desk so that he could walk continuously while working. In trying to transform his health, Jacobs tries extreme chewing, the caveman workout, the slow fitness movement where an individual only exercises 20 minutes a week (frankly, I'm intrigued), acupuncture, the joys of squatting on toilet seats to have more efficient "private moments", and numerous other approaches to whole body health. Focusing on an organ a month, Jacobs involves his entire family in his quest, although there is a lot of eye rolling and mocking comments fly. At the end of the two years, a slimmer, healthier Jacobs realizes that there are some habits that he is going to keep and some that he won't. And he sums up his experience with the advice-eat less, move more, and avoid pollutants. Now those are words that can make sense to all of us.
Profile Image for Kelly Hager.
3,101 reviews130 followers
April 12, 2012
This is Jacobs' fourth quirky memoir. In this one, he decides to become the world's healthiest man by focusing on different aspects of his body and improving them. Obviously he changes his diet and exercise habits (as in, he begins to exercise) but he also does things like use moisturizer and apply sunscreen, have sex more often, and change what he uses to clean his home and laundry (there are many, many more changes). He tries several different diets and, best of all for my purposes, learns that moderate drinkers live longer than people who don't drink at all and people who drink too much. AND this counts for beer and liquor, not just wine. So my occasional margarita habit is healthy! (My regular french fry habit, not so much.)

I don't generally read nonfiction, but AJ Jacobs is a must-read author for me. His books are incredibly funny but I also manage to learn something. For example, even lazy Americans will walk the equivalent of the circumference of the earth over the course of their lifetime. So even though I live a lifestyle that's incredibly sedentary, that still sounds like quite an accomplishment. (I probably should not view it that way and should probably actually consider it a challenge to get off the couch and walk more.)

The problem with trying to get healthy is that there are so many conflicting ideas about what's good for you and what's bad for you. For example, there are people who say that the healthiest diet is one that consists of no or little meat and then there are just as many people who say that carbs are the problem. (Probably as long as you avoid fried food, you're ahead of the game.)

Anyway. This is an incredibly entertaining book (especially when he decides to try pole dancing). This book reinforced why I will always buy everything that AJ Jacobs writes. Recommended.
Profile Image for Karen.
123 reviews26 followers
October 3, 2013
I enjoyed this in its audio book version, but I might wind up picking up a paperback so I can reference it later. I'm always thinking about how to improve my diet and exercise habits, but this book helped me to think more holistically about my approach.

I think AJ is at his best when he's not just funny, but also able to demonstrate his earnest desire to turn his latest stunt into an opportunity for personal development. As AJ tries to become the Healthiest Human on the Planet (or whatever he calls it), he also confronts issues like how our health decisions impact our loved ones, how we reconcile any health quest with the knowledge of our mortality, and which standards we use to measure our sense of self-worth.

If I was introducing someone to this author, I would point them straight to The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible. But this offering would come in second place.
Profile Image for Angie.
25 reviews1 follower
May 24, 2012
This is a fun, shallow read on Jacob's attempt to become the healthiest man possible. If you keep up with health news, there isn't anything really new or noteworthy in this book. As a means of organizing, Jacob's tackles one body system or organ per chapter which is effective, but sort of forced and some of his transitions seem artificial/corny as a result. However, his voice is entertaining and engaging, he achieved some measurable results, and he offers some practical and up-to-date health advice. During the writing of this book, Jacob's vibrant, elderly grandfather's health declines and he dies as a result. As reader, I wish Jacob would have written more about this and how grieving and mental health are connected. His own desire to improve his health to extend his life in hopes to see his children grow up is a major theme, but this is not fully explored or connected to his grandfather's longevity. This could have been a more meaningful/deeper thread to this narrative.
Profile Image for Don Gillette.
Author 29 books37 followers
February 18, 2022
Think "Tim Ferriss," but less full of himself.
Each of A.J. Jacobs' books operates on exactly the same premise with exactly the same jokes and exactly the same outcome. If you've read one, you've read them all and sadly, I had to read three of them to come to this realization.
Not wishing to sound unkind, Jacobs is the kind of likeable doofus you knew in high school--never confrontational, never willing to take a stand, but nondescript enough to get along with everyone. And he IS likeable. He's just not too funny and his attempts at humor just don't work for me.
That being said, I finished it--and learned a couple of things I didn't know, so it was worth the time. And you might find Jacobs hilarious, so give it a try.
913 reviews401 followers
October 10, 2012
A.J. Jacobs is always fun, even if his shtick is getting predictable. In his latest the-crazy-thing-I-tried-for-a-year line-up, A.J. is trying to get healthy. As with his experiment in living biblically, he tries a wide range of extreme experiences and eventually comes out with some interesting insights and a newly enhanced lifestyle, having incorporated a more moderate version of some of his more felicitous discoveries. I wouldn't tell you to drop everything and run out to read this book, but if you have some downtime and can't find something you've been dying to read, you could do worse.
Profile Image for reading is my hustle.
1,482 reviews291 followers
July 17, 2012
This was such a fun read. A.J. Jacobs is a funny dude. He writes well and always makes me laugh with his observations. And I love how he just GOES FOR IT when researching his subject matter. This time it is the health industry and his quest is to achieve perfect health. In order to do so he interviews the respected and the nutters. SO FUN. Read it.
38 reviews
November 3, 2016
Reads like an entertaining long magazine article. It did not tell me much I did not know except for the importance of the hands "No part of the body is more functionally linked with the brain than the hands-with larger areas of the brain devoted to the fingers than to the legs, back, chest or abdomen-developing finger skills is a way of improving brain function". Interesting, right?
Profile Image for Lorrie.
732 reviews
December 7, 2014
I definitely needed to read this book and was constantly reminded that a sedentary life is not good. The author even wrote the book while walking on his treadmill! Humor was sprinkled throughout the book which made it a light, interesting read while at the same time educational.
Profile Image for Sharon.
1,255 reviews30 followers
September 21, 2016
I found that the appendices were the most helpful part of this book, since the author summarized his best learning from his two years of living a more healthy life. Bottom line: eat lots of fruits and vegetables, keep moving and be social.
Profile Image for Benjamin Thomas.
1,953 reviews272 followers
May 2, 2018
I’ve become a big fan of AJ Jacobs’ books wherein he describes his experiences when submersing himself in one subject area or another. This is the man who lived an entire year trying to follow the dictates of the bible as much as possible (The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible) as well as the guy who read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica (The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World). These objectives are meant to be absurdist, of course, but Mr. Jacobs always manages to convey a lot of interesting information and perspective along with the humor.

This one is no exception. The topic this time is health, a subject that is huge and difficult to boil down into easy-to-digest (pun intended) nuggets. Mr. Jacobs has a plan to become the healthiest person in the world (tongue in cheek) after a two-year span. He divides his experience into individual months, each one devoted to a particular health topic as he adds to his lengthy list of all he needs to do to live a perfectly healthy life. Major chapters cover the stomach (diet), the heart (exercise), the adrenal gland (reduce stress) etc. Other chapters are shorter and cover such things as the feet, the skin, the nose, the eyes, ears, and many more. Safety (or how not to get killed in accidents) also gets its own chapter.

Mr. Jacobs does a lot of research and consults numerous experts, often seeking out the most extreme examples of each point of view. For example, he consults experts on nutrition who vary from those who are low carbs/high protein to those with the opposite approach. In fact, in almost every area of health there appears to be a continuum (like a political spectrum of left vs right) and each individual must decide where they fall on it and how to proceed. One thing I particularly appreciated was Mr. Jacobs’ pointing out the placebo effect. Just because you try a new style of footwear to improve your exercise, doesn’t mean that the small improvement you feel isn’t due to the simple fact that you expect it to improve. I also enjoyed how the author ties the whole book together, using his family as examples, whether it is his eccentric aunt who is obsessed with avoiding germs and toxic household products, or it is his aging grandfather as he approaches death. As always, I really feel for Mr. Jacobs’ wife, Julie, who must put up with his obsessions for months on end, but her sacrifices for my benefit are much appreciated.

The bottom line message to improve health can really be boiled down to five words: eat less, move more, relax. How one does this, of course, is the crux of it all. This book is for informational and entertainment purposes. It’s not meant to be a medical textbook. I’m thankful for that because reading it would not have been nearly as much fun.
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