The 12 Best Fitness Books of 2021

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When many of us set a health or fitness goal, we don’t think to consult a book on the subject. But the truth is, health and fitness books abound—and they’re full of helpful information that could get us closer to achieving the goals we’re working toward.

If you’re looking to start a new training program, find a book that explains the “why” behind the “what.” Understanding the rationale behind the routine may help you stay the course when you start to lose motivation. If you’re hoping to adjust your eating habits, nutrition books can help you do so thoughtfully, and cookbooks are there to provide all the inspiration you need.

Even if your goal is simply to stay healthy, a fitness book—on meditation, motivation, or any other subject you’re interested in—can help you find new ways to make the most of each day. Plus, the time spent reading is bound to feel pretty great on its own.

Here are the best fitness books on the market.

Best Overall: The Fitness Mindset

The Fitness Mindset

Courtesy of Walmart

"The Fitness Mindset" is an everything guide to living a fitter, more energetic life. Throughout the book, fitness coach Brian Keane will help you strengthen every part of your fitness routine—your eating habits, your exercise regimen, and your ability to stay motivated.

Whether you’re looking to adjust your diet, log more hours at the gym, or simply have more energy to get through the day, Keane is there to help, making this an excellent pick for anyone interested in health, fitness, and personal development.

Best for Beginners: The One-Minute Workout

For many of us, the challenge isn’t making the most of a workout—it’s finding time to work out at all. This is something kinesiologist Martin Gibala, PhD, knows well, which is why he wrote "The One-Minute Workout."

This informative read will help you understand that having all the time in the world isn’t a precursor to getting fit. Instead, you can take advantage of Gibala’s eight basic interval workouts and four micro-workouts to build strength and endurance in mere minutes.

Best for Muscle Building: Glute Lab

The Glute Lab is a definitive guide to building strength in—you guessed it—your glutes. Throughout the book, personal trainer Bret Contreras, PhD, CSCS, distills tons of field research and science-backed techniques into a simple training guide you can use to strengthen your glutes.

Sure, it may seem a little strange to focus solely on your glutes. But the gluteus maximus is the largest muscle in your body—and it plays a key role in all kinds of basic movements (like running, jumping, and weight-lifting). Building strength there will help you build strength elsewhere. Plus, it’ll give you a clear and simple goal to focus on as you start strength-training.

Best for Runners: Ready to Run

"Ready to Run" is a must-read for anyone who runs regularly, as well as anyone who’d like to start running more. In this informative book, coach and physiotherapist Kelly Starrett, Ph.D., helps runners tackle and preempt an array of obstacles they might encounter—including injury, improper training, the challenges of switching running shoes, and more.

By emphasizing 12 simple performance standards, Starrett helps runners understand not just how to run faster—but also how to run better, stronger, and free of injury.

Best for Rest and Recovery: Good to Go

Working out is a huge part of establishing a fitness routine, but rest and recovery can be just as vital. And that’s exactly what makes "Good to Go" a worthwhile read. In the book, journalist and athlete Christie Aschwanden dives into the complex field of rest and recovery research in an effort to answer the question: What’s the right way to help your body recover from a workout?

By keeping the focus where it belongs—on the science—Aschwanden will help you understand what trendy recovery methods are worth adding to your routine and which ones you’d be fine avoiding.

Best for Breathing and Meditation: Breathwork

In "Breathwork," yoga teacher Valerie Moselle offers a practical guide for incorporating meditation and breathing exercises into your day. She starts by breaking down the basics of breathwork and exploring the potential benefits of strengthening the mind-body connection.

Then, she offers a three-week training program full of simple, step-by-step exercises you can try to make your mornings and evenings a little more meditative.

Best Motivational: No Sweat: How the Simple Science of Motivation Can Bring You a Lifetime of Fitness

"No Sweat" isn’t a book about exercise—it’s a book about staying motivated during exercise. Throughout the book, motivation scientist Michelle Segar, Ph.D., recaps years of research on exercise and motivation.

Even better: She distills that research into a four-point program you can use to tackle your fitness goals with commitment, energy, and maybe even a little enthusiasm.

Runner-Up, Best Motivational: The Champion's Mind

"The Champion’s Mind" explores one simple but imperative idea: Fitness isn’t just a physical game—it’s also a mental one, too. Over the course of this book’s 288 pages, sports psychologist Jim Afremow, Ph.D., shares strategies for sticking with goals and staying challenged over time.

Though this book was written with athletes in mind, it reads like a pep talk that would motivate anyone to tackle their long-time goals.

Best for Nutrition: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Complete Food and Nutrition Guide

"The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Complete Food and Nutrition Guide" is an excellent resource for anyone who wants to thoroughly understand nutrition. The 816-page book is packed with authoritative information about dietary guidelines, public health concerns, and nutritional trends—straight from experts in the field.

What’s nice? The book doesn’t get bogged down in science. Instead, author Roberta Larson Duyff, MS, RDN, FAND, CFCS, focuses on translating the information into everyday language, making it easy for readers to see how they can apply the science to their own lives.

Runner-Up, Best for Nutrition: Nutrition in Crisis

In "Nutrition in Crisis," biochemist Richard Feinman, PhD, makes it easy to cut through the noise. First, Feinman breaks down the basics of things like nutrition and human metabolism. Then, he dives into recent medical research, making it easy for you to critically apply what you’ve just learned to fields like health, fitness, and nutrition.

"Nutrition in Crisis" is an especially great read for those interested in low-carbohydrate and ketogenic diets, as Feinman dedicates a fair amount of the book to discussing these subjects.

Best Cookbook: The New American Heart Association Cookbook

Many cookbooks are crafted with specific nutrition or fitness goals in mind, but "The New American Heart Association Cookbook" was designed to approach health more holistically. The cookbook offers 800 recipes, which promise to cut down on saturated fat and cholesterol—without sacrificing flavor.

Though the cookbook is thick, it doesn’t boast that many photos (which will undoubtedly be a downside for some). But rest assured knowing that what this cookbook lacks in imagery, it makes up for in sheer volume of nutritional meal ideas.

Best for Mindful Eating: Eat to Love

Though "Eat to Love" is written by a nutritionist, it isn’t a diet book. Instead, it’s an exploration of mindful eating. Jenna Hollenstein, MS, RDN, CDN, draws on intuitive eating, meditation, and mindfulness techniques to help readers more deeply understand their relationships with their bodies—and how food plays a role in those relationships.

The result is a nutrition guide that will invite you to prioritize your mental health—as well as your physical health—the next time you go to take a bite.

Final Verdict

"The Fitness Mindset" takes a generalist approach to fitness, making it an apt pick for just about anyone. Whether your fitness goals have to do with eating, exercise, motivation, or energy level, you’re sure to find something worthwhile in the book. Those looking for a deep dive on nutrition can find it in "The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Complete Food and Nutrition Guide," a truly comprehensive (but still readable!) text. And anyone looking for a go-to healthy cookbook is sure to find what they’re looking for in "The New American Heart Association Cookbook."

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