The 12 Best Fitness Books of 2023

From running to nutrition to meditation, read up on the science of getting fit

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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 or type of exercise, find a book that explains the "why" behind the "what." Understanding the rationale behind the activity may help you stay motivated. If you're hoping to adjust your eating habits, nutrition books can help you do it thoughtfully, and cookbooks can provide all the inspiration you need. Consider books that include sample meal plans for individual needs such as weight loss, muscle building, or a medical condition such as diabetes.

Fitness books, no matter the subject, should be comprehensive and written by qualified or credentialed experts. Look for the author's background information or experience in the field and check that the book is aligned with your goals. We reviewed and selected fitness books for our list based on subject material, author qualifications, and if the material is backed by research.

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 which is why we chose it our best overall pick. 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.

Price at time of publication: $16

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.

Price at time of publication: $27

Best for Muscle Building: Glute Lab

"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.

Price at time of publication: $60

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, PhD, 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.

Price at time of publication: $30

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.

Price at time of publication: $28

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.

Price at time of publication: $16

Best Motivational: No Sweat

"No Sweat" isn't a book about exercise—it's a book about staying motivated during exercise. Throughout the book, motivation scientist Michelle Segar, PhD, 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.

Price at time of publication: $23

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, PhD, 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.

Price at time of publication: $16

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.

Price at time of publication: $32

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.

Price at time of publication: $25

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, what this cookbook lacks in imagery, it makes up for in sheer volume of nutritional meal ideas.

Price at time of publication: $22

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.

Price at time of publication: $17

Final Verdict

"The Fitness Mindset" (view on Amazon) 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" (view on Amazon), 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" (view on Amazon).

What to Look for in a Fitness Book

Comprehensive, Research-Backed Advice

When you are reading a fitness book, especially one that gives advice or recommendations that can affect your health, it's important to be able to trust the information it is presenting. Look for high-quality scientific studies, clinical trials, and other credible sources. Avoid books that don't have a references section to back up claims related to fitness and nutrition.


Anyone can self-publish a book on whatever topic they'd like. When it comes to fitness and nutrition, it's best to take advice from professionals. Look for books written by registered dietitians, certified personal trainers, medical doctors, and other qualified experts.

Books often have author biographies in the first or last pages or on the inside of the book jacket. The author's credentials may also appear on the front cover. This can provide reassurance that you're getting sound advice from someone qualified to give it.

Alignment With Needs and Goals

If you're new to following a fitness or nutrition program—from a book or other format—it's important to make sure the program aligns with your personal preferences and goals. There are a variety of fitness books that focus on a particular type of exercise, such as running or strength training. If your goal is to master your elliptical machine skills, a book on yoga may not be the best fit, at least for your primary resource. The same is true for nutrition. If you're looking to try a balanced vegetarian diet, a book on the keto diet won't provide what you need.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are things you should consider when planning a fitness program?

Planning a fitness program is difficult, and there isn't a one-size-fits-all approach, which is why certified personal trainers tend to tailor their programs to each individual. If a fitness book is your substitute for a personal trainer, you should consider your goals, resources, time, and activity and fitness level, and then look for a book that can guide you from where you are to where you want to go.

First, consider your activity and fitness level. If you are a beginner, start slow and gradually increase the amount and intensity of exercise over time. You may start with three low-intensity workouts per week and work your way up to five moderate-intensity workouts per week.

You should also consider your fitness goals, such as losing fat, increasing muscle, increasing strength, improving endurance, or even finding the right gear, like the best insoles for flat feet, so you don't hurt yourself while trying. This may help you choose between different types of workouts and how often you perform them.

Finally, your fitness program should be realistic for your lifestyle. The amount of time you have available for exercise and the types of equipment available to you can influence your decision.

What can you expect to gain from a fitness book?

The contents of a fitness book vary, but you can generally expect to gain knowledge and insights on a particular topic. You may learn tips on proper form, nutrition, how to prepare for a race or competition, and more. Some books share case studies or clinical trials, and the author relays the information in easy-to-digest language that explains how the information is relevant.

Some fitness books also include a sample fitness program or meal plan. While fitness books are full of information, incorporating what you've learned into your fitness routine will increase their value.

How do you make sure a fitness book will meet your needs?

Doing your research on a fitness book can help you ensure it's a good fit for you. Read the synopsis of the book as well as the information on the cover, back, and inside jacket. Some online retailers allow you to preview the first chapter of a book, which can give you an idea of what to expect.

Reading customer reviews is also helpful. Some reviewers share information about themselves and their situation that may apply to you. Reading the perspectives of someone with similar goals can give you a sense of whether the book will be valuable to you.

What are some things every person should do before starting a fitness program?

Before starting a long-term fitness program, check with your doctor. A physical exam can rule out any issues that would make exercise (or certain kinds of exercise) unsafe. Your doctor or a qualified personal trainer can also suggest modifications that would make exercise more accessible or safer for you.

Some find it helpful to take measurements and pictures before starting a new exercise routine, or to perform baseline fitness tests. Then as you work toward your goals, you can check back in on these measurements or test results and see how they've changed. This can help you stay motivated as you progress since changes are usually slow and gradual.

Why Trust Verywell Fit

As a seasoned health and fitness writer, Lindsey Lanquist understands how vital quality product recommendations can be. She is careful to recommend products that are reliable, comfortable, and genuinely well-reviewed by those who've tried them.