23rd February 2021

What We Get Wrong About Exercise

If you have watched some of our videos on health and fitness, you may have heard our catchphrase “eat well, move more, worry less”. The Move More portion in our philosophy doesn’t necessarily refer to simply working out more. Instead, it takes a more holistic view on an active lifestyle: not just working out with more volume, but also moving with more regularity and variety in our day-to-day life.

Recently, we came across an article that posed a number of intriguing questions about the conventional understanding of health and fitness. The article is based on an interview with Daniel Lieberman, a professor in the department of human evolutionary biology at Harvard, and we concur with much of his findings and ideas (he’s an expert after all). Here are some key takeaways from the piece, along with our thoughts.

Exercise Is Unnecessary? (Well, Not Exactly!)

Many of us have come to accept the idea that we should be exercising regularly for good health. And “exercising” means spending an hour a day, most days a week, pushing weights at the gym, running on a treadmill or sweating it out at a yoga class, etc. But how did people get fit and healthy then, before the fitness industry was invented?

When I go to these [remote African tribal] villages, I'm the only person who gets up in the morning and goes for a run. And often they laugh at me. They think I'm just absolutely bizarre. ... Why would anybody do something like that?

Daniel Lieberman

We first pondered this question years ago, by the introduction of a concept called Blue Zones. Blue Zones are regions of the world where people live longer than normal, usually well into the 100’s on average. In other words, these are the healthiest people in the world!

People in these parts of the world tend to lead slower-paced lives that are not (yet) pervaded by many of our modernities. While they’re constantly active — think tending to farms or out fishing at sea — most of them have probably never exercised for the sake of exercising like we do, because it simply wasn’t necessary.

For most of us, the modern lifestyle has become undeniably sedentary. So “exercise” was the solution we came up with; essentially, it’s medicine designed to combat the superficial symptoms of said sedentariness. Workouts tend to be prescribed just like medicine too. Three sets of ten reps, two times a week! Twenty minutes on the treadmill, three times a week!

Don’t get us wrong, we’re not saying that there’s no need for people to exercise, or that we should forget about doing structured workout routines – not at all. But, we believe there’s a lot to learn from the indigenous hunter-gatherers that Prof. Lieberman has spent so much time studying, or the healthy, happy folks from the world’s Blue Zones.

Move with more regularity. Move with more variety. It’s simpler than we think!

There's all different kinds of physical activity, and it's all good in different ways.

Daniel Lieberman

Sitting Is A Problem. The Solution Isn't To Not Sit.

The article also touches on a number of other topics regarding physical activity. Here are two more noteworthy quotes by Prof. Lieberman:

It's not unnatural or strange or weird to sit a lot, but it is problematic if, of course, that's all you do.

Interrupted sitting, as well as not sitting in a chair that's kind of nestling your body and preventing you from using any muscles, all that kind of keeps your muscles going and turns out to be a much healthier way to sit.

Daniel Lieberman

Very familiar! These ideas are basically the foundations behind our decision to set up floor desks in our office.

If you’re interested in reading the full article or listening to the entire interview with Prof. Lieberman, check out this link.

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