I'm searching around for answers to various fitness questions as I try to figure out how to incorporate exercise into my life, but I grow frustrated with all the fads, conjectures and ideologies out there. Can anyone suggest some sourced, critical information out there about fitness and exercise? It would be great if it also fact-checked many of the ideas out there...for example, whether compound exercises improve functional fitness better than isolation exercises, or if there really is a difference between training for size compared to training for strength? While a lot of the ideas make sense, I want to know how well they've been tested. I think a lot of the information out there may be based on limited scientific data and then extrapolated audaciously (or seems to the few times I had the time to look for supporting studies). There also seem to be "cults of personality" out there, like Pavel (with the kettle bells), who seem to provide fine information on a practical basis, but these personalities also seem to have a power to bless a conjecture as true in the "fitness world" without going through the scientific process. Additionally, fitness seems to go through as many fads and trends as nutritional information. For instance, there is HIIT, functional fitness, cross-training (Crossfit), core training, Olympic lifts, yoga, pilattes, stability exercises, and I'm just mentioning some of the things that seem to make more sense to me.

Anyway, the point is that perhaps too much searching on the web and reading lame pop fitness books has filled my head with too many ideas that I now question. Can anyone recommend anything that will help me weed out all this cruft?

  • 5
    A scientific method for individual fitness is more in the area of "participant-observer" than "hypothesis testing". So claims that something works or not might be true for different contexts or individuals. Thus only reading without trying and/or relating to own experience and then evaluating what works for you is of little value.
    – FredrikD
    Commented Jul 9, 2014 at 9:54
  • I would have to agree with @FredrikD. When you're just starting to incorporate sports into your life, it's much more important to do anything than to do the perfect thing. As a beginner you will get better on any routine, you just have to start.
    – user8119
    Commented Jul 9, 2014 at 11:20
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    If I could give FredrikD's comment multiple upvotes I would - what does not work well for some may work very well for others. If I were you, I would find a regimen that fits your schedule, then stick with it until you see results. Consistency is key.
    – Josh
    Commented Jul 9, 2014 at 16:17
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    @KevinHolmes - It's proven fact that exercise, especially weight bearing exercise, preserves muscle mass as you age. Strength training is a weight bearing exercise. Here's a couple studies for you: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24460174 physsportsmed.org/doi/10.3810/psm.2011.09.1933
    – JohnP
    Commented Jul 9, 2014 at 19:21
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    I personally recommend Which Comes First, Cardio or Weights?: Fitness Myths, Training Truths, and Other Surprising Discoveries from the Science of Exercise by Alex Hutchinson.
    – Sean Duggan
    Commented Jul 10, 2014 at 17:32

1 Answer 1


Evidence-based books written for popular audiences include Gina Kolata's Ultimate Fitness and Gretchen Reynolds' The First 20 Minutes.

Both writers are science reporters for the New York Times.

Kolata's book is older (2007); she researches the origins of common fitness beliefs such as the "fat burning zone". Her book is part "debunking" and part research into questions like "where did that 220 minus your age heart-rate formula come from anyway"?

Reynolds book was published more recently (2012) and it is written to help people figure out if they are exercising in the most effective way. e.g., "should I stretch before my workout?" "what should I eat/drink after my workout?"

  • Hi and welcome to fitness.se! Your answer is a bit short to stand on its own, as it basically just gives two book names. Maybe you could add a bit of information on each book to make it more helpful.
    – user8119
    Commented Jul 10, 2014 at 6:12
  • OK, I added more information.
    – iBeth01
    Commented Jul 10, 2014 at 20:34

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