by Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
If you read only one fitness book, this is the one. It includes answers to 125 of the most frequently asked fitness questions. Now in its 10th printing, this book combines up-to-date research with practical information for establishing an optimal health, fitness and wellness lifestyle. From exercise instruction and workouts, to wellness and nutrition, Kravitz has been writing, researching and speaking about fitness for over 30 years. He takes complex topics and research results, and explains them in an easy-to-comprehend format.
The title doesn’t do justice to the knowledge and science that Grand puts into her exercise selections. The book includes a 12-week progressive program that includes strength training, cardiovascular training, and nutrition to support fat loss and muscle gain, and the recommendations are realistic and achievable. This book has sound advice based on solid research. You can hear Tamara explain why we gain weight in midlife in our radio interview of her: What Can You Do About Hormones, Menopause, and Menopot.
This companion set has one book aimed more toward men, the other toward women, with exercises in both applicable to all exercisers. Effective exercises, lifestyle information and recipes are the three parts to these books. As both a health and fitness coach, Witt is good at explaining the links between emotions, nutrition, humor, a social network, and physical activity. While I disagree with some of his slang terms, and feel the layout could be a bit more polished, the information is trustworthy and written in a way that is suitable for a complete beginner.
These three books cover just about cover everything you need to know in my (pescatarian) opinion! I love reading books about food and nutrition, yet keep coming back to Pollan’s because they make eating and food simple to understand. And he informs, where others preach. He’s also a very good writer, and I love good writing.
The titles of both these books let you know straight away that Nestle writes about the politics of food. If you are concerned about food advocacy and equality, plus food safety, read these. Her strong opinions are informed by research and statistics. In other words, facts! These books will help you become a more-informed decision-maker about what you eat.
Growing up as redheaded, freckle-faced, glasses-wearing, intellectual and sporty identical twins in a family of 5 kids, we had a lot of nicknames as youngsters. Some of the names we actually liked, such as “Bobbsey Twins” and “brainiacs.” The latter appellation must have made an impression as all the neuroscience coming out about the brain’s “trainability” and plasticity really captures my fancy. The link between cognitive enhancement and exercise particularly motivates me to move, think, and try new activities.
After reading dozens of new books on the relationship between movement and the brain, I hope you are inspired to check out my suggestions. But only if you want to be more fit inside and out!
First up, read Spark. Actually, first read our posts about meeting Dr. Ratey, hearing him present highlights from his book, and sitting next to him at dinner without drooling. Ok, I did drool a wee bit as I handed him my book copy to sign. If you want to remodel and transform your brain for peak performance, this book is for you! Warning: You will be so sparked by the brain benefits of movement that you’ll disdain a sedentary life forever after.
If you’ve listened to our radio show or been reading our posts for any duration (I really, really hope you answered “yes” to this “if”), then you’ll know I squee at the knowledge Dr. James Hill imparts with humor and facts galore. You’ll get proven, repeatable, long term weight loss and maintenance solutions when you listen to our recent radio show interview of him — Fat Loss: What Does and Doesn’t Work?
Prefer quick summaries of his talks on reducing obesity or knowing how your “why” affects your weight loss success? Read the write-ups we did after hearing him speak at two events. And of course, you will want to add State of Slim to both your library and cookbook collection. Don’t just add the book to your stacks. Actually read it. You’ll get recipes to unstick your metabolism; you’ll find out the 6 factors successful weight losers have in common, you’ll practically want to move to Colorado. Unless you are me and live in Santa Barbara, CA, in which case my butt is parked (not in “idle” mind you, but revved up).
And the book I am reading now? Glad you asked. See, my brain can make up creative conversations after tackling this list of super resources! After interviewing Dr. Cynthia Green for our radio episode, Your Best Brain Might Be Ahead of You I divebombed into Your Best Brain Ever. Michael Sweeney and Dr. Green give a lot of practical tips broken into short chapters with many examples. Not only will you easily find out what to do to enhance your brain health, but also why and how the brain functions. The two authors present the lowdown on your lobes in a super accessible, comprehensible manner. This book is a quick, easy read. Or I am just so much smarter reading it that it seems that way!
You can read while on cardio equipment; listen to our radio show interviews when on a walk, run, or drive; or simply kick back in the springtime sun and learn as you (don’t) burn (kcals or your skin). That’s a double wordplay for you. Fit brainiac status, here I come!
We make a few cents if you buy glasses from Warby Parker (see our “glasses” link above), which is great. Did we mention they have a Try Before You Buy program?
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
So what news about boosting your brain through exercise did we glean from our brush with an intellectual celebrity?
(Ok, Dr. Ratey actually said “anti-aging,” but we are not against aging. We are for aging as actively as possible, so I reworded the phrase. Literary license, people!). Dr. Ratey stressed this heavily in his book and presentation: nothing compares to the effect of movement when it comes to living life “younger” as nothing makes our brain cells work harder than exercise.
While we may not see results right away from our workouts, we reap MENTAL benefits within moments. The super important neurotransmitter is BDNF — Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor. BDNF activates learning when we perform cardio. As Dr. Ratey (aka, my BFF and dinner buddy “John”) says, “BDNF is a crucial biological link between thought, emotions, and movement. Our neurotransmitters offer ‘cerebellum training’ during and after each aerobic bout.” That clear-headed feeling we get from working out is literally a head full of enhanced brain power and activity. Dr. Ratey offered this “insta-result” fact as a way to motivate ourselves to move more.
New experiences and challenges enhance our cognitive skills (be smarter, stave off the odds of dementia, keep our memory strong, add brain matter and circuitry throughout life). Maybe we take a walk that goes left instead of right; or we change up our morning routine somehow. Perhaps we add intensity or complexity to an action we are already performing. Apparently the experiences we can create for ourselves to stay mentally strong do not have to be huge or entirely new. Even small challenges rewire our brains for the better. If you are in a workout rut, snap out of it (to quote Cher’s character in Moonstruck).
All mammals play, so the more we can bring joy and playfulness into our workouts, the better off our brains will be. At the very least, play reduces stress. Lower chronic stress levels are related to a healthier life and stronger brain. In short, make exercise fun. Does this mantra from Fun and Fit sound familiar? If your current routine A) doesn’t exist; B) is not fun; C) is ho-hum routine, then challenge yourself to try new activities until you find the ones you enjoy. Like how you can combine tips 3 and 4 here?
Those were the highlights from Dr. Ratey’s talk. If you are keen to get even more keen, read Spark, ideally right after working out… at Rancho la Puerta! That would be a really smart move!
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