What did our primal ancestors do for exercise? Well, for a start, exercise for them wasn’t anything they had to think about. It was life.
There were no gyms or running tracks. No spin rooms or Zumba classes. It was just the surrounding environment. Everyday. This meant moving and exercising to gather food, build shelter, or simply to survive.
An evolutionary exercise program can be defined as one that is similar in principle to what our ancestors did on a daily basis.
Move often at a slow pace
Early humans spent much of their day walking around hunting and gathering their food, along with seasonal migrations to new territories following food sources.
Low level aerobic activity throughout the day will build stronger blood vessels, bones, joints, and connective tissues.
Some easy ways to incorporate low level aerobic activity could look like this:
- Walking or riding your bike to work;
- Parking your car as far away from your destination as possible and walking the rest of the way;
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator;
- Take frequent breaks at work to get up and walk around; or
- Take a walk outside during your lunch break.
You may even want to try a standing desk if possible. On weekends or after work, try going for a hike or even a swim. The possibilities are infinite.
Find ways stay active every day, even on your rest days. The benefits of being mobile are endless, especially as you enter into older age.
Sprint every now and then
Our ancestors didn’t spend hours upon hours exercising, and neither should you. For early humans, life depended on being able to outrun animals, either in the form of hunting them (persistence hunting), or to avoid being hunted by them. They would only work hard when it was absolutely necessary.
These short bursts of high intensity physical effort increased the release of Human Growth Hormone (HGH). HGH helps to maintain, build, and repair healthy tissue in the brain and other organs. This hormone can help to speed up healing after an injury and repair muscle tissue after exercise. This helps to build muscle mass, boost metabolism, and burn fat.
HGH is released in proportion to the intensity (not the duration) of the physical activity.
Lift heavy things… and carry them
Just like sprinting, early humans had to use quick bursts of energy to lift and move heavy objects. They would have to move large rocks or logs to build shelter, carry firewood or large animal kills back to their camps.
These types of high intensity workouts help release testosterone that boosts metabolism and improves muscle strength and size.
The best movements to mimic this type of activity are the basic movement patterns:
- Loaded carry;
This includes exercises like the squat, deadlift, pull-ups, push-ups and farmers walks.
The biochemical signals created by these very brief, but intense muscle contractions generated a surge of HGH, prompting an increase in muscle size and power.
Rest, relax and recover
Exercise is utterly pointless and even counterproductive without proper rest, relaxation, and sleep. You need to eat well and eat enough, let your muscles rest and recover, and have enough downtime to reap the benefits of exercise.
If you want a better quality of life, to be strong and have the ability to run fast and for distance so that life is generally easier for you. Then get your rest and recover well. You don’t need to be in the gym every day. Enjoy time socially with friends and family. Read a book. Visit a museum or art gallery. Give your body some time to physically recover.
You don’t have to spend hours every day in the gym to be physically fit. It’s actually the opposite if you’re after general physical fitness. Depending on individual goals and competitions you may need to spend additional time completing sports specific training.
However, if you want to be healthy, strong and mobile into old age the basic template can be fairly simple to apply, follow and easy to achieve.