For most of human history, our ancestors’ bipedal bodies were well adapted to move throughout their environment in a variety of ways that are unparalleled by any other land animal species. We are not the fastest, or strongest, or most graceful species, but we can walk and run long distances, and our unique anatomy allows us to throw, jump, climb, swim, and carry heavy objects with endurance and efficiency. We are the Swiss army knife of the animal kingdom, and along with our big brains, this is a reason why our species has survived and prospered for thousands of years.
Unfortunately, recent cultural evolution (or dys-evolution) has transformed our bodies and environment in ways that are detrimental to our health and the planet (the Pixar film Wall-E is not so far-fetched). With the click of a mouse or smartphone we can have just about anything delivered to our doorstep without leaving our homes. Heck, all the necessary things for survival of our species, whether it’s food, shelter, mobility, or even finding a mate, can be done today with the click of a button… and if clicking a button is too much effort, we can just use our voice to get virtual assistance from Alexa. Thanks Amazon for making our life so easy!
Sarcasm aside, who doesn’t love a state of physical ease? Most of us avoid toiling for long hours, plus, being at rest is also built into our DNA. Our early hunting and gathering ancestors were not on the go all the time. They often sat and rested for hours each day to conserve energy, especially not knowing when or how much energy they needed to expend to find their next meal.
I recently finished reading a book by evolutionary biologist Daniel Lieberman, titled Exercised: Why Something We Never Evolved to Do Is Healthy and Rewarding. The overriding theme of his book is that “exercise” is a recent cultural evolution that most of us don’t enjoy doing, because it’s not a natural human instinct. If given the opportunity to choose an elevator over taking the stairs, most of us would opt for the elevator. It also partly explains why so many people who make New Year resolutions to join gyms or start a fitness routine, lack the motivation to stick to it.
From an evolutionary perspective, Lieberman feels that there is good reason why most people don’t enjoy exercise and they shouldn’t be shamed, blamed, or made to feel inadequate by arrogant fitness enthusiasts. However, we all know the health consequences of giving in to our sedentary ways. So, how do we overcome the inertia and the ease of life that our culture encourages that usually leads to poor health as we age? Lieberman has a simple solution. Make exercise necessary and fun, and one way to do that is to find an activity that you enjoy and make it a social obligation so that you will do it regularly. Whether it’s in-person or on Zoom, I’d like to think that our signature FUNctional Fitness classes meet that criteria.
As far as how much and what type of exercise is best? Well, again, if we don’t enjoy the exercise routine, or if we’re medicalizing exercise to try and meet short term goals such as to lose weight or reduce our cholesterol, most people will view exercise as a chore and resort back to the couch. On the other hand, Lieberman encourages us to seek some form of physical activity several hours a week that’s enjoyable, preferably with a partner or group of people to hold us accountable. To make the best use of your unique anatomy and prevent injury, try to move your body in a variety of ways. Humans are also built for endurance and carrying heavy objects so mix in cardio and weight training which you will get by attending our FUNctional Fitness classes.
Don’t be hard on yourself if some days you’re not feeling motivated to exercise. You can blame it on your ancestral DNA, but also remember that some physical activity is better than none. Most importantly though, don’t give in to inertia, and try to find satisfying ways to move your body, especially as you age!
Share Your Wellness Thoughts: Aside from our fitness classes, have you found enjoyable ways to move your body more during the day or week?