As a Primal Health Coach I look at ancestral health principles for good health practice, not just for diet but also for other lifestyle factors, like exercise.
Our Paleolithic ancestors did not engage in exercise like most of us do. But they were moving a lot, most definitely more than we do. They would not have gone jogging to burn calories or perform squats, lunges and pull-ups to built muscle. This doesn’t mean they would never perform any of these exercises, but they would have been part of their necessary daily activities such as hunting, foraging, fleeing from danger, building shelter, etc. Their movements were all functional or playful (there is a lot of evidence that play has always been important for human health).
Before the agricultural and industrial revolution, our ancestors had to work for their food. Physical activity and survival were strongly linked. Lazy people were unlikely to survive.
Most of the physical activity would have been walking. Occasionally our ancestors would have to run or sprint whilst hunting or fleeing but they would have mostly walked long distances. They would only be as physically active as was necessary to survive. This behaviour is imprinted in our genes and explains why we are inherently lazy. We are hard-wired to spend as few calories as possible and relax when we can, just like we are hard-wired to take in a lot of calories even now food is abundant. No need to explain that this has contributed to current high rates of obesity and disease.
We have to consciously decide to exercise. Luckily, it does make us feel better and for many us it has become a habit. The main difference between the exercise we do now and the physical activity of our ancestors is that we tend to do more high-intensity/high impact workouts whereas our ancestors would walk a lot more than we do. You may think our hardcore workouts are more effective than all that walking, but that is not necessary the case, which is probably good news for peeps who do not fancy high-intensity exercise.
Walking is less glycolytic, which means it relies less on available glucose so it doesn’t raise the need for increased calorie intake, and it promotes fat burning. It also put less stress on the body, even though it engages the whole musculoskeletal system and raises the heart rate. There’s no tearing down of muscles and less risk of injury.
If that is not enough, walking is also great for improving mood, cognitive function, bone strength, weight management and insulin sensitivity.
There is no exact number of prescribed steps per day, but with walking more is more. It is safe and not too hard and the benefits will increase as the steps increase. 10,000 steps, which equates roughly to 1.5hrs of walking will definitely bring you a lot of benefit. The challenge is not so much the walking itself as finding time and opportunity to get those steps in. Grab every opportunity to walk, like getting off an earlier stop on public transport or park the car a little further from the destination and walk the rest, walk around when making a phone call and when we can meet up with other people again, instead of going for a coffee, go for a walk.
You are very welcome to contact me for a free lifestyle assessment if you would like to find out how you can achieve optimum health by eating, sleeping and moving like nature intended.