Though our genes must hardly change, our practice has been changed almost beyond recognition throughout the past 40,000 years, particularly after the industrial change. There is rising evidence that resulting mismatch fosters that commonly cause 75% of all deaths in Western states, but that are unique to persons whose lifestyles match those of our pre-agricultural ancestors.
Our ancestors, and surviving tribes that model their lifestyles did NOT die from the “diseases of lifestyle.” We also know that they had significantly different exercise, energy expenditure, and physical fitness levels than modern industrialized activity patterns.
The ACSM’s recommended activity levels are only about 44% of the energy expenditure levels observed among hunter-gatherers. In other words, modern industrial humans are all deficient on exercise resulting in sickness.
Our ancestors had the bone density, muscle mass, body composition, aerobic fitness, anaerobic fitness, strength, agility, core strength, and attractiveness of today’s elite cross-training athletes (decathletes). What we now call elite is just normal. What we now call normal is unfit, unhealthy, and unattractive. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors physical exertion patterns likely resembled cross-training, not the more focused regimens of pure runners or weightlifters; activities analogous to both aerobic conditioning and straight training were thus integral components of their physical routine.
Although each day’s normal tasks needed at least some muscular effort and stamina newly studied hunter-gatherers tended to align their more strenuous exertion. Men usually hunted from two to four non-consecutive days a week, while women regularly gathered every 2-3 days.
The message is that our ancestors were active every day and had several days per week of high-intensity activity. They also chose leisure activities that involved physical exertion (dancing and other games). Also, virtually every day involved walking for an average of 15 km every day.
However, the exercises of our ancestors, while requiring, lacked the effectiveness of physical exercise managed according to the tenets of modern exercise physiology. Attaining similar physiological effects with less time expenditure might be possible. The best way to raise physical activity levels on a daily basis is to incorporate as much physical activity as possible into the normal living routine. Taking stairs, walking to work, walking to get groceries, cycling to work or shop, joining an activity club, organizing lunch break walks, finding active hobbies for after work rather than watching TV.
One of the greatest tragedies to me is that people now feel that elite athletes represent something unattainable. The reality is that what we now consider elite athletes were once the norm in every hunter-gatherer society.
There is a great deal of evidence to show that the strength, agility, stamina, power, bone density, body composition, and muscle mass of average hunter-gatherers was equal to that of today’s Olympic athletes.
We are all professional athletes. We all make a living from our physical and mental abilities, and our health determines our abilities more than anything else.
Understand that daily physical activity is a required nutrient, not a therapy or an option. Choosing to refrain from physical activity is a form of suicide. Love yourself and take care of yourself: you are too precious to do anything else.
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