Book Review:
Fitness For Geeks

Author(s): Bruce W Perry
Publisher: O'Reilly (2012)
ISBN: 1449399894
Web Site: http://www.fitnessfg.com/
Reviewer: Dave Cross

Buy from Amazon

There's a movement afoot in the geek world. After decades of sitting in front of screens and only eating flat food we're finally realising that this lifestyle isn't that good for us. And many of us have decided to do something about it.Of course, being geeks we see fitness as a phenomena to be investigated, a problem to be solved. As a result we now have books like Fitness For Geeks which examines all of the areas that you need to consider when trying to get fit and presents them in a way that that appeals to the geek mentality.

The first chapter is really an introduction. It explains why most current lifestyles (and not just geek ones) are at odds with the way our metabolism has evolved. Perry's thesis (and it's a convincing one) is that it's only ten thousand years since all humans were hunting for their food and that's not long enough for our bodies to have evolved away from their hunter-gather blueprint - which means that we need to find other ways to burn off the calories which we no longer use hunting.

Chapter two switches to full-on geek mode and surveys some of the many gadgets that are available to help you lose weight and get fit. Geeks love their gadgets and this was one of the most interesting chapters for me. The idea behind most of these gadgets is that if you can measure something then you can improve it and track the improvements. For example, I was using a FitBit before I started reading the book. The FitBit tracks the amount of exercise you take during the day - basically by monitoring the number of steps you take and the number of stairs you climb. By reducing these measurements to a few simple numbers it becomes easy to see how well you are doing. I walk around more than I did before I got the FitBit and I'm always hoping to beat my previous record number of steps in a day. But the FitBit is just one device. There are plenty of other devices, smartphone apps and web sites that can help you track your exercise, the calories you eat and your progress.

The next four chapters look at input - or, in non-geek terms, food and nutrition. Chapter three explains what protein, carbohydrates and fat are and why they are important in your diet. Chapter four does the same for micro-nutrients like vitamins. Chapter five takes the science from the two previous chapters and turns it into practical advice for a healthier diet. Chapter six might be slightly controversial as it talks about fasting and suggests that you try "intermittent fasting" - where you only eat during part of they day. For example you might only eat during eight hours of the day and fast for the other sixteen. Parry highly recommends it. Personally, I'm in no hurry to try it.

Next we have a few chapters about exercise. Chapter seven talks about getting outside to walk, hike, ski or run and chapter eight is a beginners guide to the gym. Chapter nine recommends randomising your exercise program and reviews some web sites and apps that can help with that. Chapter ten goes back to nutrition and looks at some supplements that you might want to add to your diet. Finally chapter eleven introduces the idea of hormesis (or "good stress") as a way to make your workouts more effective.

As someone who is just starting to think about losing weight after after a lifetime of sitting at desks and avoiding the gym there's a lot to think about in this book. Currently, I think I'm doing well if I fit three or four two-mile walks into my week, but I've started to consider jogging too. It'll still be some time before I persuade myself into a gym. But this book has given me plenty of food for thought. And by presenting the information in a way that appeals to geeks, Perry has ensured that I'll be going back to this book regularly for the next step on my journey.

If you're a little out of shape (and, let's face it, most of us are) then I'm sure you'll find this book useful.