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Fitter Faster is a good resource on exercise and training for anyone wanting to get in shape without spending hours and hours in the gym.
Recommended for: All otherwise-healthy adults.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
• Robert J. Davis, PhD, MPH, is an award-winning health journalist whose work has appeared on CNN, PBS, WebMD, and in the Wall Street Journal. He earned an undergraduate degree from Princeton, a Master's degree in public health from Emory University, and a PhD in health policy from Brandeis University. Dr. Davis is the president of Everwell, the producer of "Healthy Skeptic" videos and teaches at Emory's Rollins School of Public Health.
• Brad Kolowich, Jr. is a certified personal trainer who has trained actors, athletes, and TV personalities.
The 228-page text is organized as follows:
Introduction (Chapter 1)
PART I: Get Ready: How to Motivate Yourself
- Chapter 2: Why Bother?
- Chapter 3: Avoid Off-Ramps
- Chapter 4: Gear Up
PART II: Get Smart: What You Need to Know about Aerobic Exercise, Strength Training, and Stretching
- Chapter 5: Take it to Heart
- Chapter 6: Muscle In
- Chapter 7: Stretch Out
PART III: Get More Out of Exercise: What to Eat and How to Prevent Pain
- Chapter 8: Eat and Run
- Chapter 9: Feel No (Bad) Pain
PART IV: Get Going: The Fitter Faster Plan
In general, this book is easy to read, even though lots of scientific research is discussed.
• Introduction (Chapter 1): The Introduction is well-written. It establishes the reason why the author wrote the book and gives the reader a proper perspective on what to expect.
• Chapter 2: This chapter justifies why exercise is important. It summarizes several health benefits (eg., living longer, reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer, boosting your brain power) but some seem downright strange (preventing constipation?...). Because the title of the book implies ways to get in shape faster, the various health benefits should be discussed from that perspective. Can we exercise less and still get the same results? This would establish the framework for the rest of the book.
• Chapter 3: This chapter is about motivation. Most of this content is useful.
• Chapter 4: This chapter focuses on exercise gear. Some of the information is useful. The author recommends dumbbells but doesn't specify what weights most people should buy. He makes no mention of stretch bands as an alternative. (They can be packed into a suitcase when you travel, and they're a better choice for the elderly because they reduce the risk of injury.) He discusses treadmills, elliptical machines, and stationary bikes, but omits much less expensive and more versatile all-in-one exercise devices like the Fit Kit ($35) and the Journey Gym (about $350).
• Chapter 5: This chapter discusses aerobic exercise and introduces the concept of "high-intensity interval training" (HIIT). This is an important chapter as, here, we expect to learn how and why shorter exercise sessions can be just as effective. Though the author supports this chapter with 25 research citations, he doesn't provide us with enough details. He explains that HIIT is a training technic that has been used by athletes for decades, but doesn't tell us how effective it is. Do athletes see a 2% improvement in athletic performance, or a 20% improvement? How long does it take to see these improvements? Is it best for sprinters? Middle-distance runners? Marathoners? Cyclists? Tennis players? On p. 71, he states that HIIT can also be helpful in a variety of chronic health problems but again doesn't provide the reader with any specifics. According to Davis, HIIT improves blood pressure, blood glucose, and blood cholesterol. But by how much? What percentage of people have been able to discontinue drug therapy for these conditions by following a HIIT program? How long did it take before these benefits were seen? These details are more relevant to readers than intricate concepts of slow-twitch/fast-twitch muscle fibers. Providing additional detail is especially needed regarding the effect of HIIT training on weight loss. On p. 71, Davis states that "HIIT may be more effective than conventional aerobic exercise" which seems to contradict his statement on p. 27 that 60 minutes of intense exercise may be required. In Chapter 6, the author writes "Your best bet may be a combination of resistance and aerobic training, which in some research has led to greater fat loss than either type of exercise alone." After reading this book, I'm not sure if HIIT training produces more weight loss than traditional exercise regimens or not. The author also discusses the concepts of MET's, exercise heart rate, and "the talk test" as ways to evaluate exercise intensity. In general, this chapter misses the mark.
• Chapter 6: This chapter focuses on resistance exercise. Here, the author introduces the concept of periodization and makes the distinction between muscular strength, muscular power, and muscular endurance. Unlike my critique of Chapter 5, it would be too confusing to try and explain these resistance-training concepts in specific detail...ie., the amount of weight required differs not only for each person, but for each muscle group. Thus, discussing these concepts in general terms is acceptable. The discussion of circuit training is key as it represents a strategy for obtaining results faster. On p. 84-86, the author summarizes this and does provide an appropriate amount of detail from research studies.
• Chapter 7: This chapter focuses on stretching and flexibility. Generally, the information is good, though the authors endorse "torso twists," something that I feel should be discouraged to avoid injuries to the spine.
• Chapter 8: This chapter focuses on nutrition. There is some good information, but, it's difficult to cover this topic thoroughly in only 14 pages. Also, the author attempts to discuss several dietary supplements. Because this chapter is too brief, it should have been omitted.
• Chapter 9: In this chapter, the author addresses soreness and injuries related to exercising. In general, it's good information but it would have been better to tell readers if HIIT training leads to more injuries (due to higher-intensity) or fewer injuries (due to shorter duration sessions).
• Chapter 10: Chapter 10 lays out the Fitter Faster program. Essentially, it involves exercising for 15-35 minutes per day, 6 days per week. Day 7 is a rest day. Dozens of specific exercises are presented. For each one, black-and-white photos are provided.
Throughout the book, the author provides boxed information. Each one asks a question, followed by a short answer. These cover a variety of topics, 23 to be exact. Most of them are consistent with the goal of the book to help you get in shape faster. For example, "What is the best time of day to exercise?" (p. 35) might be helpful for readers who have a really hectic lifestyle. On p. 87, he explains whether you should perform aerobic exercise or resistance exercise first. Again, this is helpful so that people can get the most out of each exercise session in the shortest amount of time.
On page 56 "Is treadmill walking/running as effective as doing so outside?" is an appropriate question (from the perspective of how to get fitter faster), but Davis doesn't answer the question very clearly.
However, some of the other topics seem irrelevant to the book's primary theme: can sex impair athletic performance? (p. 20), should you exercise if you have a cold? (p. 23), is the drive to exercise genetic? (p. 43).
The book also provides profiles of 8 people. While these vignettes are interesting, none of them illustrate how a "shorter" exercise routine can be just as good. It would have been more appropriate to profile people who have followed the Fitter Faster program and summarize their results. Indeed, in Chapter 10, Davis states that Kolowich (his collaborator) has "seen excellent results" with their program. Fine, then, give us some details!
• Photos & Illustrations: The black-and-white photos in Chapter 10 are well done, though the inclusion of some simple arrows would help to clarify some of the technics. There are no illustrations.
• Tables & Graphs: There are only several tables. These are adequate. There are no graphs.
• Documentation: The author holds a PhD and, as such, takes a scientific perspective. I was pleased to see lots of citations of scientific research for each chapter. This not only confirms that the recommendations and opinions are valid, the citations allow readers access to additional information on specific topics.
What I Liked:
The book offers useful, practical advice, and does so succinctly. The discussions are easy-to-read. The page layout is clean. The content is based on research and those research studies are listed.
What Could Be Better:
Because the point of the book is to get in shape faster, I think the author should present the current "official" exercise recommendations in the beginning. The first time he discusses "10,000 steps per day" was in Chapter 4 (p. 58), and the first time he discusses the standard "30 minutes per day, 5 days per week" recommendation was in Chapter 5 (p. 64). Presenting these recommendations much earlier establishes the basis for comparing how and why shorter exercise sessions can be just as effective.
Further, this book doesn't provide the reader with a perspective on how aerobic exercise recommendations have changed over the years. This is relevant because as more and more evidence of the effectiveness of high-intensity interval exercise comes out, it may force exercise experts to revise the "official" exercise guidelines again.
Chapter 5 was disappointing. The author stated that high-intensity exercise was "effective" for athletic performance and can provide health benefits, but, didn't provide the reader with any specifics. It would only require another page or two to tell us, for example, that "800-meter runners improved their times by 4 seconds", or, that "25% of patients with type-2 diabetes were able to reduce or completely discontinue their drug therapy" after adopting a HIIT training program. This level of detail would help to convince some readers to begin a high-intensity exercise program. Despite declaring in the Introduction how important research is, the author didn't explain it in enough detail.
Last but certainly not least, the authors don't provide any proof that their program is better than following exercise guidelines developed by authoritative organizations such as the American College of Sports Medicine. In fact, they don't provide any evidence that it works at all. Instead, on p. 138, Davis writes: "Brad has seen excellent results..." We have no idea what that means.
Fitter Faster addresses an exercise trend that is not only growing in popularity, but may become the preferred exercise strategy for health improvement. Thus, this book is timely.
In general, there's good information in this book. However, most of the content doesn't match the title. Considering that the word "faster" is part of the title, my expectation was that this book focuses on how to achieve the same (or better!) results in a shorter period of time. Instead, it is essentially a general exercise book with some emphasis on HIIT training. Most of the information in this book is good, and it's supported with scientific research, but there is a significant mis-match between the title and the actual content.
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Fit In 5 (2008) by Greg Whyte, PhD
|Reviewed by: Stan Reents, PharmD
||8/30/2017 8:39:57 AM