Ultimate Fitness: The Quest for Truth about Health and Exercise

Front Cover
Macmillan, 2004 - Health & Fitness - 304 pages
In Ultimate Fitness: The Quest for Truth About Exercise and Health, Gina Kolata, science reporter for The New York Times, takes a fascinating journey into the fads, fictions, and genuine innovations that have defined the world of physical fitness. From weight lifting for men and women in the early days, to jogging in the 1970s, cycling in the 1980s, aerobics in the 1990s, and now Spinning, Kolata explains the science of conditioning and the objective evidence behind commonly accepted prescriptions. Among the questions she addresses are: What is the best way to exercise for maximum effect? What is the most effective way to train for endurance versus strength? Why is "maximum heart rate" calculated at 220 minus our age, and how did the formula come into being? Is there really a "fat-burning zone"? Does "spot reducing" work? We feel great after physical exertion, and think our endorphins are surging, right? Kolata shows us how and why we're wrong. Why is it that some people won't become fit in spite of exercise? Can exercise alone help reduce cholesterol? Are there special foods or drinks that can help you exercise longer or harder? Do nutritional supplements build muscle? Who's your trainer and how much training did he/she really receive? Kolata profiles those who successfully challenged conventional wisdom and marketed their inventions, and some who resisted initial criticism only to back down from their claims. With lively sketches of many of the mavericks who have influenced the industry over the years -- from Bernarr Macfadden and his controversial contests "for the best and most perfectly formed woman" in the early twentieth century, to Jack LaLanne, who, at the age of eighty-seven, still lifts weights for an hour every morning, to Johnny G, the champion of Spinning -- Kolata presents an eye-opening view of the inside workings of a multimillion-dollar business. Lively and engaging, Ultimate Fitness spotlights the machines and machinations, and cuts through the marketing and hype not only to assess what is healthy, but also to help us understand what our obsession with fitness says about American culture today.

What people are saying - Write a review

User ratings

5 stars
4 stars
3 stars
2 stars
1 star

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - joeydag - LibraryThing

Written in 2003 by the science reporter of the New York Times, this is a great survey of the subject. Each chapter focuses on a different aspect of fitnes, from the state of the science to the state ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - lorireed - LibraryThing

Fat burning zone, target heart rate, spot reducing, runner’s high, and supplements--these are just a handful of the topics New York Times science reporter Gina Kolata tackles in her book Ultimate ... Read full review


1 Less Is More or Is It?
2 History Repeats Itself
3 How Much Is Enough?
4 Maximum Heart Rates and FatBurning Zones
5 Training Lore
6 The Athletes World
7 Mount Everest
8 Is There a Runners High?
9 Sculpting the Body Beautiful
10 The Fitness Business
Epilogue The Truth About Exercise

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2004)

Gina Kolata is a science writer for The New York Times and the author of four previous books, most recently Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus That Caused It. She lives in Princeton, New Jersey.

Bibliographic information