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Physio Chris Tuckett reviews a new book, titled Get off the Couch Before It’s Too Late

Toni Goffe's light-hearted cartoons add a welcome dash of colour and humour to the book

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Title: Get off the Couch Before It’s Too Late: All the whys and wherefores of exercise

Author: Hugh Bethell

Price: £14.99 (Amazon)

Copies also available via email request for £12.50 (includes p&p). Email: hjnbethell@gmail.com

Publisher: Timbers Publishing

ISBN: 9781739965990 eBook: 9781739965921

This surprisingly and pleasingly hefty publication seeks to answer all and any questions an individual may have about exercise and physical activity. It commendably promotes participation in exercise throughout while providing stark facts, figures, and additional context to further cement the need for us all to be more physically active.

Hugh Bethell's book is written in a very accessible style for the most part and certainly attempts to avoid any of the more complex words or turns of phrases that one might associate with textbooks or research literature. Complementing the easy-read style are informal and light-hearted cartoons that add a welcome dash of colour while adding a touch of humour too – not something that is normally expected in books focusing on health improvement.

However, do not be fooled into thinking that the more accessible style means that topics are not addressed in any detail. Dr Bethell has comprehensively broken exercise down into several chapters that provide a logical narrative beginning with the history of exercise, before moving on to the physiological components of exercise and then looking at how we really measure what exercise we are doing. It continues to look in detail at several specific health conditions that are impacted by exercise or the lack thereof and this section is particularly valuable if you have a specific specialism or patient group that you work with. The author does reference the scientific literature and the difficulties of interpreting causation from the available evidence and provides very comprehensive reference lists for those who may wish to follow-up on any specific items.

Coverage of the topics of 'frailty and longevity' is welcome

Reflecting on my own professional clinical background, I was pleased to read that 'frailty and longevity' have their own specific chapters within the book and the importance of exercise and muscle strengthening in later life was duly referred to as being critically important.

Nearly all books have areas that readers might feel require improvement and this is no exception. For me, the book’s intended audience was not entirely clear. While the style of the writing and the use of cartoons, plus the title itself, all suggest the book is targeted at the public and those wishing to become more active, the level of detail the book explores, particularly around the physiological mechanisms of exercise, are not something I would anticipate lay members of the public being inclined to consume.

Similarly, the level of detail the book dedicates to accurately measuring and tracking activity levels, dosing exercise and monitoring levels of sedentarism are, again, not something I would associate with a general readership. Clinicians, health, and fitness professionals would no doubt find this information very useful as a reference tool while going about their daily work, though the style of the book would perhaps mean professionals would not consider it as such. Therefore, I feel the book sits in a slightly awkward territory between being a textbook and a general non-fiction health title.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and, despite considering myself to have a comprehensive level of knowledge in this area, still found myself learning plenty [Chris Tuckett]

'Easy to read' material

In summary, I would recommend this book to those who have a professional or personal interest in all things related to exercise and physical activity. It is detailed, easy to read and the highly credible author obviously has many years of experience, excellence, and knowledge of the subject area behind them. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and, despite considering myself to have a comprehensive level of knowledge in this area, still found myself learning plenty. I would, however, recommend it as a tool or reference book for professionals working in the field, who may wish to share specific chapters or sections with any patients or clients they may treat or interact with.

Chris Tuckett is a physiotherapist who is an associate director of allied health professions at an NHS trust

Follow Chris on Twitter: @HealthPhysio

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