Do you ever wonder how our bodies evolved creating inborn instincts, necessities and tendencies? Why do we have the tendency to be lazy or tired? Our ancestors evolved to use the minimum amount of energy for the most advances meaning when they weren’t hunting for food or searching for shelter, they were resting to regain maximal health. These necessities required a lot of energy (calories) because they had to walk, climb, carry heavy loads and sprint (whether they were chasing their prey or sprinting from being prey!) Hunter and gathers burned 800-1,200 calories from physical activity alone, 3-5 times more than modern sedentary people. This is probably because in today’s society instead of hunting and gathering to provide, we are working to make money to provide. To make matters worse, most jobs are performed sedentary at a desk, in front of a computer or glued to the telephone. Hence why 2/3 of Americans are overweight, but that’s a whole other topic…
Lets take a look at the typical life and physical activity of a hunter and gatherer compared to our modern sedentary lifestyles. In a 2010 study “Organic Fitness: Physical Activity Consistent with Our Hunter-Gatherer” the activity levels of hunter-gatherers around the world were examined. Each of these facts suggests the importance of physical activity and health and how we can make it a priority in today’s world.
1. On average, hunter and gatherers walked 4-10 miles a day either to hunt, gather water, food, or to migrate.
Point taken: We need to get out of our office chairs and move more. At least take the stairs!!
2. Difficult days were followed by easier rest days but because life was so dependent on providing for basic needs they rarely took the entire day off from physical activity.
Point taken: Workout-oholics should not be afraid to take a day off because it’s essential for performance and good health.
3. Hunter-gatherers sprinted during their hunts, followed by walking. When they would see an animal they would sprint then they would walk. Their bodies became conditioned “fit” through this type of activity.
Point taken: This is now referred to as interval training: Intense exercising followed by a rest period…hmm maybe that’s why HIIT is the best way to get in shape? Maybe our bodies evolved to respond well to this type of activity.
4. They weren’t focused on one type of specific training for a body part. They did a variety of exercises like strength, endurance, and stretching.
Point taken: Being an over-all athlete is more beneficial. Cross training can reduce injuries and keeps you interested.
5. They did weight bearing activities carrying heavy loads back and forth. They didn’t lift weights to look good; they lifted heavy loads to provide a living.
Point taken: Weight training should be done 2-3 times a week for 20-30 minutes to keep strong bones and good health. We are naturally attracted to muscular individuals because we think they can “provide” for us.
6. Hunter and gatherers were lean which reduced joint pain and trauma, allowing them to always be on their game.
Point taken: Being leaner is naturally appealing and can create less pain in your body.
7. They exercised in groups, whether it was hunting and gathering together or dancing at rituals.
Point taken: It is way more motivating to work out with friends or in a group. Taking a class, joining cross fit or scheduling a gym date will be way more fun then exercising by yourself!
8. They had enough sex to populate the world.
Point taken: Sex is great and comes with lots of positive health benefits…why do we naturally enjoy sex? Because we were evolved to reproduce.
9. They made sure they rested..because if they didn’t they would not be able to do their job.
Point taken: Sleep, sleep, sleep! We need to take a break from our non-stop lives and rest. Getting at least 7 hours of sleep per night is essential for weight loss and health.
Survival and health were their number one priorities. Maybe we need to be more like our ancestors. Our bodies were designed to move, be physically active and feel good. We all want to feel and be healthy; we just have to make it a priority. After all, if we don’t have our health, we don’t have anything.
Resources: Eating Paleo by Neely Quinn