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The First 20 Minutes: Surprising Science…

The First 20 Minutes: Surprising Science Reveals How We Can: Exercise… (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Gretchen Reynolds

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2241351,855 (3.65)4
Title:The First 20 Minutes: Surprising Science Reveals How We Can: Exercise Better, Train Smarter, Live Longer
Authors:Gretchen Reynolds
Info:Hudson Street Press (2012), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 288 pages
Collections:Your library, Read but unowned, Favorites

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The First 20 Minutes: Surprising Science Reveals How We Can: Exercise Better, Train Smarter, Live Longer by Gretchen Reynolds (2012)



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Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
Gretchen Reynolds is a New York Times columnist who distills health and exercise research down to practical, readable advice. I’ve never dog-eared as many pages in a book as The First 20 Minutes. Reynolds writes about why you might want to brush your teeth standing on one foot, work out before eating breakfast, and how pickle juice might help with cramps. Should you get a cortisone shot? Does it help to believe in luck? Does long-distance running make your knees less healthy? Is chocolate milk a good recovery drink? Read the book and find out.

Whether you’re a couch potato or a ultramarathoner, you’ll probably learn something interesting and helpful from Reynolds’ book. Reynolds also writes with the easy readability of a seasoned newspaper columnist, and each chapter ends with bite-sized summaries of what the current scientific research recommends. My only nitpick is that I wish Reynolds had included footnotes pointing to the original research for people who want to dig deeper. ( )
  mattcutts | Oct 8, 2015 |
A fun read with some new ideas. ( )
  joeydag | Jul 23, 2015 |
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, shrinkage (that includes the gonads!) and age-related damage to your DNA. Even if you're over 60 or obese, it's never too late to start exercising. Just 5 minutes a day is a good start. Years will be added to your life.

Weight loss, marathon running, cycling, swimming, weightlifting, and general aerobic exercises are covered. Distinctions are made between men and women, by age (under and over 40), and advice given to avoid exercise-related injuries. Lookout for the end of chapter key points for great tips and advice. Below are some of the more general things I liked that people should either do or don't do.


✔ 150 minutes of exercise per week. (Sex counts as exercise!)
✔ Increase fitness by increasing intensity or duration by 10% per week.
✔ Keep an exercise diary.
✔ Only short, low intensity warm-ups work otherwise they impede performance.
✔ Eat a banana before exercise and exercise before breakfast, drink low fat chocolate milk after, and eat eggs for breakfast.
✔ Continue normal routine after exercise instead of being less active.
✔ Drink pickle juice (2.5 ounces) as a palliative (takes 85 seconds) for cramping which is due to muscle exhaustion, not dehydration. Vinegar may be the thing in the pickle juice that works.
✔ Interval exercise (e.g. 3 min high intensity, 3 min low intensity) is more efficient, 75 minutes per week max.
✔ Weight / resistance training is incredibly beneficial, especially for people like runners: increases flexibility, strengthens bones, increases reaction and speed times.
✔ More repetitions with lighter weights are more effective than less repetitions with heavier weights.
✔ Increase balance by standing on one leg and closing your eyes while brushing your teeth each day.
✔ 25 squats everyday, they strengthen most of the body. Add a kettlebell for more of a challenge.
✔ 16 pushups for women, 27 for men minimum. Beginners: use counter-top first, move to stairs, then the floor.
✔ Follow the right way to do certain aerobic exercises see the end of chapter 6 (40 mins into 6th audio file).
✔ Moderate exercise while ill improves health.
✔ Stand more than sit, it burns more calories.


✘ Take ibuprofen for sore muscles, it will decrease the effect of the exercise.
✘ Massage sore muscles, it impedes blood flow and gives no physiological benefits regarding performance.
✘ Take ice baths. They cause more soreness after exercise, and don't speed recovery or increase performance.
✘ Do carbo-loading, it doesn't work. It only puts weight on.
✘ Eat more when exercising if you're trying to lose weight. You're replacing what you've burned.
✘ Do crunches or sit-ups until you've researched the right way to do them or you could damage your spine.
✘ Buy tone-up shoes, they only work while doing squats.
✘ Buy individually tailored shoes, they lead to more injuries. Your feet adjust to what they're used to. Barefoot runners run differently to those in shoes, their feet slap the ground with less force and land on the front of the foot. If you want to switch types, do it gradually.

Listen up, women!:

Scientific fact: It's harder for women to lose weight.
✺ But when we stop exercising we'll hang-on to our exercise benefits for longer than men. This is thought to ensure survival during pregnancy -an evolutionary advantage.
✺ We're more likely to be injured while oestrogen is high (i.e. during ovulation). We're more clumsy.
✺ In utero changes to foetuses in response to a good diet and exercise of their mothers, gives babies better starts in life.
✺ We sweat less than men during exercise; overweight and unfit women sweat less than fit women so they're less able to keep cool. Fit people sweat more at lower temperatures as a form of temperature control to avoid overheating.

Parts may be a little too technical and boring for some (perhaps a few too many studies were explained in detail), and it's a little repetitive in places. I've studied biology to degree level, but I was struggling to remember those lessons while listening to the more scientific elements of exercise. However, both the author and some of the scientists had a sense of humour. Reynolds said Paula Radcliffe 'runs like a praying mantis', and one study was called 'Revenge of the Sit.' Honestly, I think the usefulness of the advice given outweighs the more tedious aspects of the book.

Karen Saltus is an excellent narrator. She made this a joy to listen to rather than a chore. I'd definitely recommend The First 20 Minutes to everyone doing any sort of exercise. ( )
  Cynical_Ames | Sep 23, 2014 |
Inspiring, with realistic exercise principals that even I can follow. ( )
  phyllis.shepherd | May 18, 2014 |
No stars because I couldn't get past the first chapter. This comment is about the AUDIOBOOK. Because of my disability about 90% of "the written word" that I partake of comes in this form. This is one of the few times in my memory that the voice of the narrator was so unpleasant for me that I had to quit. I like the topic. I enjoy contemporary popular press synopses of current "in vogue" scientific lines of inquiry. And for this topic, I think there is a lot of unproven advice that gets touted as gospel. So I wanted to hear a review of current investigations. But this voice was like nails on a chalkboard for me. Guess I will consider buying the Kindle version ...
  zoomball | Oct 19, 2013 |
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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 stay fit gain the most from any workout. With the latest findings about the mental and physical benefits of exercise, personal stories from scientists and laypeople alike, as well as researched-based prescriptions for readers, Gretchen Reynolds shows what kind of exercise--and how much--is necessary to stay healthy, get fit, and attain a smaller jeans size. Inspired by Reynolds's wildly popular "Phys Ed" column for "The New York Times," this book explains how exercise affects the body in distinct ways and provides the tools readers need to achieve their fitness goals, whether that's a faster 5K or staying trim.… (more)

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