In the last chapter I discussed why physical exercise is so important, particularly for us older folks. I also discussed motivational techniques and great ways to measure you progress in both empirical and scientific ways. What this chapter discusses is how to exercise.
On the face of it, it seems obvious. Join the gym and spend hours repetitively lifting weights, or hours on stair masters, or hours on elliptical bikes and such like. Perhaps a Jane Fonda style aerobic class or jogging for 40 minutes three or four times a week is more to your liking? But what if i were to tell you all of these are of limited value and, taken to extremes, actually damaging to your health, even lethal? Moreove, what if i were to tell you that you can achieve:
• much more spectacular results
• over a far shorter period
• with far fewer weekly hours and
• have more fun in the process?
As they say, “incredible, but true”! the fact is none of us is taught how to keep fit in our post ‘ flight or fight’ stage of evolution which naturally kept us fit when we ran from predators or stalked our prey. For hundreds of thousands of years we evolved specifically responding to the stimuli of predator/prey scenarios and yet in the last few thousand years, few hundred even, that stimuli started to disappear.
Today the “flight or fight” stimuli is almost completely absent and we find artificial means to replicate it. It is assumed any sport or activity done in any manner will do just so long as we are active. Unfortunately this is not the case. Some sports are so alien to our predator/prey ancestry that our adaptive bodies respond in ways that are utterly inimical to our natural health.
Consider the marathon. Was it normal for our ancestors to run 26.2 miles as fast as they could? No. And what happened to Pheidipiddes when he finally delivered his message of the Greek victory over the invading Persians? That’s right, as every school kid knows, he dropped dead, in similar vein, why is it that every year we read about a super fit athlete that inexplicably does the same? Are we to believe the simplistic explanation that Pheidippides and his unfortunate latter-day apostles all suffer from congenital heart conditions? Could it be that something more sinister in our bodies is happening when we repeatedly and unnaturally pound the earth? Dr. Al Sears, a very well known and respected fitness expert in the US, certainly thinks so.
In his ground-breaking book, Rediscover Your Native Fitness, he exposes the flawed thinking behind many of today’s most popular get-fit activities.
He demonstrates with ample scientific evidence that a disconnect has grown between what our bodies were designed for and our environment today. We are all aware that our hunter-gatherer forefathers did not lead sedentary lives or sit all day in square boxes called ‘ offices ’ staring at computer screens. But are we also aware that, in evolutionary terms, 45-60 minute aerobic classes done day in day out would have been an anathema to the survival needs of our ancestors? And yet they were lean and fit, able to leap up at a moment’s notice to run from predators and enemies or catch their prey in a sudden rush or swoop.