16 May 2014 Fitness: From Hunter-Gatherers to Couch Potatoes

Are we evolving into a weaker species? According to some recent studies, humans may be doing exactly that when compared to our farming ancestors (circa 7,500 to 2,000 B.C.) and hunter-gatherer ancestors. Dr. Colin Shaw of Cambridge University says, “Even our most highly trained athletes pale in comparison to these ancestors of ours...We’re certainly weaker than we used to be”.

Another researcher, Alison Macintosh, who wrote, “From athletes to couch potatoes: Humans through 6,000 years of farming,” says that when we stopped being hunter-gatherers and moved into farming, men’s overall strength and mobility declined.

So why the decline? In part because of technology. As we have more machines doing more of our work, we humans just don’t get around as much. We drive, we dial, we email, and we take elevators, and our bones are living (or dying?) proof of this. The bone density of a famer from 7,300 years ago was, on average, the same as a current student cross-country runner. Now we face things like osteoporosis, obesity, and a general lack of fitness.

It is ironic if one stops to think about it, as we have made so many improvements in our nutrition, longevity, and exercise equipment in the last couple hundred years, but we still face an obesity epidemic. Shaw says it is because we simply don’t challenge ourselves enough: “We’re overweight and we’re not challenging our bodies like we used to.”

Dr. Loren Cordain, professor emeritus of health and exercise at Colorado State University and author of The Paleo Diet, says that it is not the farmers of our past we should emulate; it is the hunter-gatherers. “The people back then were monsters by comparison. What you see today is quite pathetic.”

Of course, we can’t suddenly turn back time and erase the last many thousands of years, especially genetically, but we can train hard, and we can all do more. If we take a moment to step back and see the benefits of moving and doing, and they are as important (if not more important) as our weekly scheduled gym times, we can improve our overall fitness.

We have it in all of us to be “monsters,” as Dr. Cordain describes it, because our ancestors once were. Train hard, eat right, and get moving!

Ryan Newhouse

Ryan Newhouse is the Marketing Director for MyNetDiary and writes for a variety of publications. He wants you to check out MyNetDiary on Instagram!

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