Gretchen Reynolds has "distilled the knowledge gained from years of fitness reporting into a new book, “The First 20 Minutes: Surprising Science Reveals How We Can Exercise Better, Train Smarter, Live Longer,’’ published last month.
While the subtitle alone makes bold promises about the potential of exercise to protect the human body, the most surprising message from Ms. Reynolds is not that we all need to exercise more — or at least not the way exercise is typically defined by the American public. Ms. Reynolds makes a clear distinction between the amount of exercise we do to improve sports performance and the amount of exercise that leads to better health. To achieve the latter, she explains, we don’t need to run marathons, sweat it out on exercise bikes or measure our peak oxygen uptake. We just need to do something.
“Humans,” she writes, “are born to stroll.”
Q.Why did you choose “The First 20 Minutes” for the title of a fitness book?
A.The first 20 minutes of moving around, if someone has been really sedentary, provide most of the health benefits. You get prolonged life, reduced disease risk — all of those things come in in the first 20 minutes of being active.
Without being evangelical, I wanted people to understand that this is a book about how little exercise you can do in order to get lots and lots of health benefits. Two-thirds of Americans get no exercise at all. If one of those people gets up and moves around for 20 minutes, they are going to get a huge number of health benefits, and everything beyond that 20 minutes is, to some degree, gravy.
That doesn’t mean I’m suggesting people should not exercise more if they want to. You can always do more. But the science shows that if you just do anything, even stand in place 20 minutes, you will be healthier.
Read full article, The New York Times, 4 May 2012.