The First 20 Minutes: The Surprising Science of How We Can Exercise Better


Gretchen Reynolds writes the reputed Phys Ed Column for New York times. Gretchen is writing about this field of study for more than ten years. She has received a number of awards for her work in writing and also honored with National Magazine Award for her numerous publications in the National Geographic Adventure magazine.

Now Ms. 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. The subtitle seems to be promising about the potential of exercise to protect the human body, the message from Ms. Reynolds is not that we all need to exercise more. Ms. Reynolds shows the difference between the amount of exercise we do to improve sports performance and the amount of exercise that leads to good health. She explains, we really don’t need to run marathons, sweat on exercise bikes or measure our peak oxygen uptake. We just need to do something.

Gretchen uses short stories to attract the reader in, but more importantly, Gretchen uses studies that have been done by some of the most experienced, well-known, and credible groups and scientists in this country to convince others of her point.


The New York Times bestseller explains how revolutionary scientific inventions can help all of us to achieve our personal best.

“The First 20 Minutes is packed with interesting tips and insights. Pickle juice for cramps, who would have ever thought! Gretchen Reynolds once again delivers a winner.”—Dean Karnazes, New York Times bestselling author of UltraMarathon Man

The First 20 Minutes will show you how to be healthy today and perform better tomorrow.

Explore the super- revival powers of chocolate milk on distressed muscles, how running can actually be worthy for your knees and how even just 20 minutes of regular exercise can transform your health and well-being. Right now, modern science is revolutionizing the traditional workout. More is known about exercise, health and fitness than ever before, from how (and how much) we should actually exercise, to the advantages and disadvantages of barefoot running and the effect music can have on a workout. In The First Twenty Minutes, New York Times columnist Gretchen Reynolds has turned the key findings of cutting-edge research into practical, user-friendly guidance to benefit you to polish the way you exercise. Whether you are a sprinter or a marathon runner, whether your aim is weight loss or a faster 5k, this book furnish evidence-based answers showing you how you can train more efficiently, recover more quickly and recover all the physical and mental benefits of an exercise regime specifically tailored to meet your individual needs.

This book is a quick & easy mentor to getting in shape and improving performance from New York Times “Phys Ed” columnist and author of the New York Times Bestseller The First 20 Minutes.


Booklist Review

According to them, The First 20 Minutes a blinking book compact with information about exercise science and practical recommendations on physical training for them seems to be inspired by Isaac Newton which says that bodies in motion remain in motion, but, alas, bodies at rest don’t go anywhere. Reynolds highlights the theory that when it comes to longevity, the prosperity of exercise is front-loaded. Most shrinkage in mortality is collected during the initial 20 minutes of exercising. While no one truly recognizes the exact amount of exercise is needed to stay healthy, every little raise helps. Exercise pumps up the brain, too. The author glorifies the benefits of low-fat chocolate milk, squatting, high-intensity interval training, plyometrics, weight training, and even pickle juice. She gives a refusal to static stretching while warming up, ice baths and deep massage after a workout, and drinking too much water (which can cause dangerous hyponatremia). Her argument, Aerobic fitness may be the single most important determinant of how long you live, rings true. Even on a molecular level, exercise appears to modify aging. Whether your physical activity tends toward plodding or prancing, simply standing or sprinting, the human body is designed to move.

Review by Publisher’s Weekly Review

In the opinion of the publisher, Gretchen Reynolds her book is an informative and entertaining analysis of current science about exercise and fitness, with good, commonsense suggestions that cut through confusing, often conflicting research on the subject. The author proves that almost everything we think we know about exercise is wrong. A very rational and readable volume, it is first and foremost a user’s manual that also explains that much of what we have been advised to do is inappropriate and possibly dangerous, especially since we must exercise to achieve a healthy, lifestyle disease-beating, aging-retarding regimen. Dispelling myths and deconstructing commonly held but inaccurate beliefs on almost every page. Armed with the information in this book, readers will be inspired and motivated to reassess their habitual exercise programs and make positive changes.

Review by Library Journal Review

Trying to find the current information and advice on exercise? New York Times “Phys Ed” columnist Reynolds has done an expert work of processing and reporting latest research on the human body’s capability for fitness what is attainable and how the average reader can meet these physical aims. Each chapter deals with an individual aspect of fitness. Reynolds compares past beliefs and practices with current research findings and gives readers information about excellent routines in such areas as nutrition, stretching, brain fitness, and interval training. She uses her reporting skills to gain insights from specialists throughout the text to help clarify and explore the topics. VERDICT A well-written and thorough overview of fitness, this book doesn’t require readers to wade through statistics or specific scientific trial information. Those who prefer more hard data may find the material too digested.


The First 20 Minutes is one of those scientific fitness advice books drafted to justify how the scientific fitness advice books of the past got it wrong. In Critic opinions, Gretchen Reynolds, its author, and not a scientist herself, is a respected journalist. Essentially the thesis of her expanded review of what was once the conventional scientific knowledge about fitness and athletic training is that much of what we have been told in the past usually had no scientific basis, much was exaggerated and a good deal was just plain wrong.

Carbo-loading before a marathon won’t help a runner. Hydration doesn’t prevent cramps. Too much water during exercise can be dangerous. Lactic acid may be a good thing. Running shoes built to accommodate the shape of a runner’s foot are fruitless and may be harmful. Short intensive intervals are more useful than the torturous, long intervals praised in the past. Weight training can benefit with mental acuity.

Reynolds epitomizes a mass of studies by prestigious scientists from prestigious institutions — studies on mice and rats, studies on athletes, studies on pot-bellied couch potatoes — that demonstrate the imperfection of previous thinking. She has her experts and authorities. Her work is equitable and convincing. Of course, the writers of those fitness advice books of the past had their studies by prestigious scientists from prestigious institutions as well. They had their experts and authorities too, their work was just as equitable and equally convincing. Given the track record she herself is exposing, one might well be forgiven for viewing her recommendations with a grain or two of skepticism.


Gretchen Reynolds is such a decisive and conclusive source is because of her lack of bias in all of her articles. From the ten different articles that were published by her, one could not find one bit of favoritism in them. Gretchen is well trained in not showing bias because of her years, and years of experience writing for not only the New York Times but all the other established articles she has written for over the years.

Gretchen proves her credibility by showing both sides of the argument, and never being judgemental for others. Gretchen shows us once again that she can write about any topic you throw at her, and in this case, she shows us she can keep writing about extremely controversial topics.

Gretchen is imperative, yet unbiased, has the experience, yet stays simple, and more importantly keeps the sources she cites credible and up to date. And that’s the reason Gretchen Reynolds deserves all the respect she has gained over the years and deserves the right to be called a credible source.

The best thing about Reynolds’s book is that her advice is reasonable. She recommends the kinds of workouts that even the least athletic among us can deal with.

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