Cavemen Didn’t Run Marathons

Have you ever wondered why you don’t see many wild animals dashing about, needlessly expending energy?

If they are dashing about, it will probably be due to the need to flee from a predator or be a predator. There are a few exceptions – some animals are naturally active especially the young of any species, but then what do they do? Collapse in a heap and sleep it off!

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“An animal instinctively knows when the conditions are right to eat, sleep, excrete, procreate and even die.”

In nature it doesn’t make sense to expend energy needlessly. Nature’s aim is healthy life, procreation and survival and in this it is tunnel visioned. It has countless “tricks” which it uses to these ends. For example: we get hungry when nutrients are needed and we get tired when sleep is needed – it’s not rocket science! An animal instinctively knows when the conditions are right to eat, sleep, excrete, procreate and even die.

We, naturally, are above all that aren’t we? We are blessed with large brains and we feel the need to use them even if brain power is not required. So instead of relying on our instincts to guide us in natural functions, we resort to the findings of (often) dubious research. How mad is that? After all, we are animals too and have been evolving for millions of years. Nature’s tunnel vision it would seem, is extremely efficient or we wouldn’t be here.

During my career as a nurse, I used to meet people all the time who were suffering injuries sustained by over-exercising or just getting it wrong. Back problems are number one (since you need the strength in your back for virtually all vigorous activity) but also knee, ankle and hip injuries, on a regular basis. Our pursuit of fitness is not without hazards. Sadly, the sufferers of these self-inflicted injuries, often do not recover sufficiently to resume their former level of activity. This leads to frustration at best and depression at worst. There is a saying, “live fast, die young” and I suspect that this maybe true in many cases. What is most certainly incorrect, is the notion that you can just burn off the calories that you have eaten and that everything will be fine. It didn’t work for Sir Steve Redgrave, who carb-loaded all his active rowing life and it won’t work for you either. He became diabetic. What is important, is that you provide your body with the proper nutrients needed for its health and activity. Sadly, most people who exercise in this way are those that cut out the fat and increase the carbs. This is the quickest way to age yourself – facially and bodily.

It is not my intention to stop people doing that which they enjoy. It is merely to inject a note of caution and common sense. Constantly going for burn is dangerous. If you do this you are ignoring your body’s warning that it is under stress – and stress in any form on a regular basis, is not beneficial to good health. It starts up the “fight or flight” hormonal response, which physically damages us. This response is for the odd occasions (nowadays anyway) that we need to get ourselves out of danger. For our overall health, we do need to get our hearts racing sometimes, but possibly the best type of exercise is interval training – good if you really want/need to allot time for exercise.

“Activity is important; playing games (safely) is fine and going to the gym is fine provided you listen to the messages your body sends.”

file0001856731560Many people I met, would apologise for the fact that they hated gym work. They would expect me to tell them that they should be working out regularly so I told them to walk to the gym, then turn around and walk home again. Activity is important; playing games (safely) is fine, going to the gym is fine provided you listen to the messages your body sends. Did cavemen run marathons? Very doubtful! They most probably used stealth, cunning and team-work to catch their food – for the most part anyway. This type of activity is effectively fuelled by their low-carb diet. We are not so different now that we need a new set of rules!

We need to be active and rest when needed. Using controlled movement to limit damage and we should do some resistance work to encourage good supple muscles and joints and occasionally, get out of breath.

How do we do this? We walk the dog, dig the garden, wash the car, run for the bus, vacuum the house and have sex. Tough isn’t it?

Here is an article by Dr.John Briffa on walking versus running.

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