Physical fitness is not only one of the most important keys to a healthy body, it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.
John F. Kennedy
Why do you think we feel good after intense exercise?
Endorphins of course! The physiologic adaptation providing a buzz of “Feel Good” hormones often after torturous physical activity.
Modern research (See Spark / Habits) suggest human genes code for hunting/gathering behavior. We were literally built to chase fast animals across extreme distances, steadily wearing down our quarry. Exercise physiology suggests we are aerobic machines with the added bonus of explosive anaerobic ability. This permits intense bursts of strength or speed enabliing the ability to “pounce” for a final kill.
Dynamic brain imaging, mapping of radioactive neurotransmitters, and mountains of exercise physiology reveals the human body maintains and performs best when physically mimicking our ancestors.
Benefits of Exercise
Consider the following exercise related facts:
- Children learn 40% faster when physically active
- Intense exercise increases brain cell regeneration
- Exercise is a “Keystone habit” Start Exercising and other good habits naturally follow
- High blood pressure, Diabetes, Obesity, and Heart Disease all improve with regular exercise
- Dementia, Parkinson’s, and Alzhiemer’s patient’s all show benefit with regular exercise
- Exercise has been show to be as effective as medications for depression, anxiety and related mood disorders.
- Weight lifting increases testosterone and improves libido.
- Weight bearing exercise improves bone density and decreases fall risk
- Excercise decreases food cravings and helps with addictive tendencies
So nature provides endorphins, natural morphine, to encourage our physical activity.
The “Runner’s high” really reflects a “Hunter’s high.”
Our genetics provide the subtle reminder and encouragement that to survive one must be able to “Go the distance.”
Though modern man relies less on the day to day physical survival skills of our ancestors, we are still more strong, clever, adaptable, and hard to kill when we embrace what our genetic design intended.
There’s too much research now to ignore the obvious. Doctors should stop suggesting exercise and start prescribing exercise.
What Style of Exercise Works Best?
My patients sometimes roll their eyes or sigh when I mention exercise. “I’m too busy, no time, work, school, kids, arthritis, weather, mosquitos, gym fees, over-weight”….you name it, I’ve heard it all.
I recently began shifting my approach. I now prescribe very specific types of exercise designed to maximize our hunter/gatherer genetic skill set.
This now includes some form of aerobic exercise 5 days weekly, building up to 30-45 min of steady aerobic work….channeling the inner hunter chasing antelope.
I also add 1 to 2 days of more intense exercise activities weekly such as weight training, stair climbing, body weight calisthenics or sprinting. Even a few minutes of high intensity provides the needed physiologic triggers to gain many more dynamic benefits of exercise…enhancing our ability to perform in survival moments.
Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.