Books for Health and Strength

So you want to be healthy and strong? I know a couple books that might help.

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We all feel inspired to improve our bodily condition at certain points in our lives. The doctor gives a suboptimal piece of news. The movie’s attractive protagonist is transformed through struggle and determination. An unexpected glimpse of oneself in a mirror or a photograph forces a confrontation with reality.

But inspiration and motivation aren’t enough. We won’t reach the destination if we can’t even find what direction to turn in, or which path to embark on. On the questions of diet and exercise, there is a veritable mountain of competing advice available, and a shocking level of misinformation floating around. Everyone wants to make a buck, and the best way to do so is apparently by telling people what they want to hear and offering some new spin.

So the trick, then, is to cut through the noise and find the truth.

I think these two books offer a great deal of help in that respect. You might not want to hear all of what they have to say, but it’s my conclusion that they are nonetheless worth hearing out.

One book offers guidance on the science of exercise, and one on the science of diet. Neither is a how-to manual. The exercise book doesn’t give a full workout regimen, and the diet book won’t offer a list of meals to eat. But they give the guidance which will make it possible to choose exercises and foods wisely, which in my experience is far more valuable.

The First 20 Minutes, by Gretchen Reynolds, is a book without parallel about exercise science. It blasts away some common myths, and it explores many of the benefits of exercise and the best and worst ways to exercise. An inspiring and informative read.

My second book recommendation is How Not to Die, by Michael Greger (not to be confused with his followup book How Not to Diet, also a pretty good read but not where I’d recommend beginning). How Not to Die is an amazing book. It is very challenging to most of us who read it, but it also makes an effort to be welcoming. There are almost certainly problems with the kinds of food we come to eat, including problems we had no idea were anything wrong. This is the book that will tell us how to change our eating for the better, and it will break the news to us in a gentle, clear, and winsome manner.

If you want to live a long life, to preserve your brain’s health, to feel good and strong, to be able to think clearly and without hindrance, then these two books are the place to start. They cut through the noise and lay out a path which is perhaps not easy, but at least clear.

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