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Exercise is a voluntary physical activity undertaken for the sake of fitness. You may think exercise is normal, but it’s a very modern behaviour. Instead, for millions of years, humans were physically active for only two reasons: when it was necessary or rewarding. Necessary physical activities included getting food and doing other things to survive. Rewarding activities included playing, dancing or training to have fun or to develop skills.
But no one in the stone age ever went for a five-mile jog to stave off decrepitude, or lifted weights whose sole purpose was to be lifted.
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A common myth is that people uncontaminated by civilisation are incredible natural-born athletes who are super-strong, super-fast and able to run marathons easily. Not true. Most hunter-gatherers are reasonably fit, but they are only moderately strong and not especially fast. Their lives aren’t e...
Let’s not oversell exercise as medicine. Although we never evolved to exercise, we did evolve to be physically active just as we evolved to drink water, breathe air and have friends. Thus, it’s the absence of physical activity that makes us more vulnerable to many illnesses, both physical and men...
With the end of the Covid-19 pandemic now plausibly in sight, 70% of Britons say they hope to eat a healthier diet, lose weight and exercise more. But how? Every year, millions of people vow to be more physically active, but the vast majority of these resolutions fail. W...
Let’s not demonise a behaviour as normal as sitting. People in every culture sit a lot. Even hunter-gatherers who lack furniture sit about 10 hours a day, as much as most westerners. But there are more and less healthy ways to sit. Studies show that people who sit actively by getting up every 10 ...
Until recently just about every weight-loss programme involved exercise.
The truth is that you can lose more weight much faster through diet rather than exercise, especially moderate exercise such as 150 minutes a week of brisk walking. However, longer durations and highe...
Many people are scared of running because they’re afraid it will ruin their knees. These worries aren’t totally unfounded since knees are indeed the most common location of runners’ injuries. But knees and other joints aren’t like a car’s shock absorbers that wear out with overuse. Instead, runni...
Most people don’t like exercise and have to overcome natural tendencies to avoid it. For most of us, telling us to “just do it” doesn’t work any better than telling a smoker or a substance abuser to “just say no!” To promote exercise, we typically prescribe it and sell it, but let’s remember that...
Most adults in high-income countries, such as the UK and US, don’t get the minimum of 150 minutes per week of physical activity recommended by most health professionals. Everyone knows exercise is healthy, but prescribing and selling it rarely works.
We all believe we should exercise more. ...
When food is limited, every calorie spent on physical activity is a calorie not spent on other critical functions, such as maintaining our bodies, storing energy and reproducing.
Because natural selection ultimately cares only about how many offspring we have, our hunter-gatherer ancestor...
Despite rumours that our ancestors’ life was nasty, brutish and short, hunter-gatherers who survive childhood typically live about seven decades, and they continue to work moderately as they age. The truth is we evolved to be grandparents in order to be active in order to provide food for our chi...
Many medical professionals follow the World Health Organisation’s recommendation of at least 150 minutes a week of moderate or 75 minutes a week of vigorous exercise for adults. In truth, this is an arbitrary prescription because how much to exercise depends on dozens of factors, such as your fit...
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Whenever you move to do stuff, that's physical activity. Exercise, however, is a voluntary physical activity that one undertakes for the sake of fitness.
Exercise is a modern behavior. Humans, for many ages, were only physically active whe...
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