With the popularity and effectiveness of the paleo diet, it makes sense to look at what other ancestral strategies we can use to improve our lives. In fact, returning to the lifestyle of our hunter-gatherer ancestors can eliminate the obesity epidemic, give us all lean and strong bodies, and dramatically reduce disease rates.
A recent review of “paleo” practices highlighted the following facts:
• Humans have evolved to be genetically predisposed to perform an extremely large volume of daily physical activity in order to survive.
• Daily physical activity has been shows to substantially alter the expression of a large proportion of genes in order to improve cardiovascular health, blood sugar maintenance, fat burning, mood, immunity, sleep quality, and blood pressure.
• Technology (agricultural, industrial, and technological revolutions) has eliminated the need for physical activity, but our genetic makeup is the same as our Stone Age ancestors. It is this discrepancy that causes widespread disease—we live in a high-tech, sedentary, overfed, emotionally-stress world.
• We have adopted the genetic instinct to “move when we have to, and rest when we can.” As hunter-gatherers, simply getting food and water required a large energy expenditures, making rest a necessary and intelligent instinct.
• Studies show present-day hunter gatherers burn between 600 and 1,700 calories a day in physical activity, whereas present-day urban populations burn 200 to 300, often indoors on cardio machines or with relatively light weights.
To solve these discrepancies, you don’t need to abandon your urban lives, technology, or jobs to go live in the woods. Rather, here are ten tips for adopting a paleo lifestyle:
#1: Do interval training a few times a week with bursts of high-intensity training followed by recovery. This improves cardiovascular, pulmonary, and muscular fitness.
#2: Strength train with heavy loads and periodized phases to continually produce gains in strength and muscle mass.
#3: Do heavy-load “daily life” activities such as modified strongman training on a weekly basis.
#4: Regularly exercise outside whether it is walking, jogging, intervals, or strongman. Our ancestors performed all of their “training” outdoors, and studies show outdoor exercise, even in less than ideal weather, will improve mood and adherence.
#5: Include some sort of activity that promotes flexibility—stretching, foam rolling, yoga, or soft tissue work.
#6: Ensure recovery—our ancestors typically did strenuous activity to secure basic needs and then took advantage of their hard work to take time to recover.
#7: Walk and run on natural surfaces as much as possible—trail running or at the track are two ways to get off the pavement.
#8: Get a training partner. Our ancestors performed much of their strenuous activity in a social setting, which required both competition and cooperation, leading to better results and more enjoyment.
#9: Avoid processed, refined foods in favor of whole foods including meat, fish, nuts, vegetables, seeds, and fruit.
#10: Own animals because you will have to be active to care for them (dog owners have been found to be healthier than other non-owners).