Evolutionary Mismatch: Exercise

Evolutionary Mismatch: Exercise

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Exercise falls into a similar category to dieting. Select people hate them, whether it is one or another or both of them. Under ancestral conditions, before the advent of agriculture and civilization, everyone was a nomad. By definition, nomads are on the go. Yet in today’s society everyone is prone to sitting on their couch watching TV, on their phones, or behind a computer screen. This is also increased now that so many people are working at home due to the pandemic. Now that everyone is home and paranoid of catching/spreading Coronavirus less people keep up with their exercise routines. I often think back to what life would’ve been like without electronics, but our ancestors only received their form of fun by games that often included running or walking. Today, our technology is so “advanced” that we can lead lives that are nearly fully sedentary. This may feel good in the short term, but in the long term, such a lifestyle can be downright deadly. The solution to this problem, exercise a lot. Our ancestors did, and our bodies evolved under such conditions—run, walk, lift, hike, etc.

We can learn a lot from our ancestors, you would be surprised that our ancestors aren’t as active as people would expect. They spend the vast majority of their time resting, typically sitting, and relatively little being what we would consider being ‘physically active’. Our physical activity has evolved from homo sapiens, although we have lost some of our upper body strength through evolution. Physical activity recommendations from national and international guidelines have historically been ‘volume-centrique’ with a focus upon how much we should be doing. However, it has recently been argued that perhaps we should be focusing more on how hard the activity we perform is. We don’t know exactly what our physically activities were in our evolutionary past, but know that we are doing more intense things now then in the past, even with less upper body strength.

I am a cross country and track and field runner. I have done such a variety of physical activity that sometimes even has me question if I am even capable of completing the activity, whether it ranges from an intense track workout or a high/long jump circuit workout. I definitely will always wonder if our ancestors will ever be capable of completing the amount of physical activity we do now a days, but I don’t doubt that they did keep up with their exercise.

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