Going Paleo with Physical Activity
Imagine that you are pretty much stuck at home all day, with little or minimal occupational work to do (right now, this is most of our country). This can leave a significant about of time available to accumulate physical activity. While its true I cannot use the gym, or the park (closed in my town), or any other public recreational facility that isn’t an open field. I am reminded that, well for a millennia or two, man did not have these things either, yet the fitness level of the typical paleolithic human far surpasses that of their modern counterparts (that’s us). In this post, I’ll talk a bit more about:
- how physical activity differs for us, compared to our paleolithic counterparts,
- how that can help us now become more physically active
Way back then
Think about this. In order to equal the physical output of the “typical” (as best as we can estimate) paleolithic man, I would have to add 6 hours of walking (over rough terrain), or 4 hours of swimming, or 3.5 hours of running to my normal daily activities. That would equate to ~4000-5000 kcal per day, double what the average modern man, expends, (note I said expends, not consumes).
What did pre-modern man do to accumulate so much physical activity?
I cannot claim expertise here but activities related to hunting and foraging such as walking, trotting (following the herd), at times sprinting, squatting down and getting up many times/day were likely. Early man was nomadic, so there was no “home”, tribes traveled where the food was. So, in effect, we were in motion throughout the most of each day carrying everything, then building shelters when needed. A task requiring lifting and moving rocks and dead trees. In addition, skinning and otherwise preparing the catch of food for the day cost energy. Depending on the precise time epoch we are talking about, a fire may have been started and maintained, for warmth as well as for cooking. Then we have caring for young, and which can be quite physical (anyone who has toddlers and young children at home know what I am talking about).
In modern times, our lives are sedentary and we must make a point to get physical activity. That’s the catch right? Without our usual tools (aforementioned gym, workout equipment) what can we do? There’s only so many push-ups, sit-ups, and chair dips one can do (some of us can’t even do them at all). Here’s some ideas taken from our cultural history:
Work on your shelter
Do a walk through and evaluate the cleanliness, the arrangement, and the overall state of each room in your living space. Does anything need to be cleaned? Swept? Dusted? Re-arranged? Relocated? Make a “clean” deal with yourself, dust/vacuum/sweep one room per day until you’ve done each room. Take a break for a day or two, then start again. Does anything need to be repaired? How about that gouge in the wall where the old couch used to be? How about the old light fixture that needs to be replaced? These are all inside jobs, there’s also outside jobs that require cutting, trimming, mowing, hoeing, and raking. For those, forget the power tools and loud machinery, go old school (rakes, reel mowers, clippers). Remember we are trying to be more active, to get more physical activity, use the most low-tech tools that you can.
Follow the herd
Okay, there likely aren’t any herds roaming the streets where you live. However, human primates (us again) have been gifted with the ability to imagine things. Pretend there is, map out a route that the “herd” might take. See if you can include some hills and/or rough terrain. Pack a snack, some water, a notepad and go. Periodically record your thoughts as well as your exertion levels, use landmarks to describe where you are at each recording. This way you are hunting and gathering data, which, could be useful later on. If your going full paleolithic (~12-15 miles), be sure to start small and incrementally work up to it and/or take frequent breaks, even if you don’t think you need it, your feet likely will.
Skin/prepare your “catch”
Again, you likely didn’t go out and catch anything but maybe its time for a kitchen “makeover”. Take an inventory of food and supplies. Rearrange food so that “junk food” is inconvenient and the whole food options are most visible. Label leftovers with an “eat by” date. Put together a menu for the week. Pull necessary items out of the freezer to thaw (according to your menu). Put utensils you will need in convenient places (cutting board standing on its side for easy removal – not flat underneath tons of pottery). Do you have a fruit and veggie chopping station? How about a sandwich making station? Take some time and energy to find the space and set these up! These are areas to use frequently as part of your regular food prep ritual.
Fight off a predator, like a croc or a bear
No predators to fight off? How about a dance off? Take a cue from Breakin, or if you prefer a more recent version from Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg. Challenge your roommate/family or even your neighbor, you can face off from across the lawn or street. Not into dancing? How about a cook-off? The winner is the tribal leader for the day. Pre-modern man certainly had such rituals.
These are just some ideas, by all means, use your imagination, maybe some of these will become part of your new, more physically active normal.
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Published by mattktraining
I am currently the Owner of my soloprenuerial company Matt K Training. Through my fitness and nutrition programs I help adults develop skills and practices that help them eat, move, and recover well. Over the past 20 years, in various roles such as a Personal trainer, Exercise Physiologist, Clinical Researcher, and Health Coach I have helped hundreds of adults reach their health and physical performance goals. When not working, I enjoy active pursuits such as playing right field for the Charlton Giants (in a 38+ competitive baseball league), playing tennis, hiking, backpacking, and rock climbing. I also enjoy indoor activities such as playing strategy board games, reading and discussing science fiction literature, dabbling with my guitar, finding creative ways to eat oatmeal, and being a good dad.