part of an ongoing series of columns I’ve written, reprinted from the TU Rambler.
Most pharmaceutical ads I see usually say something about only being effective when combined with “proper diet and exercise.” But what does that mean? Last week we talked about eating healthy; this week, let’s talk about exercise. Our culture seems to have an obsession with “getting ripped”, which I’m pretty sure is the male equivalent of girls starving themselves trying to look like Kate Moss, but instead we have protein shake-chugging guys going to the gym trying to look like men, at least the way a sculptor or an art director or Mtv says men should look. But really, there’s no reason to try to become Ahnold Schwarzenegger. When in life are you ever going to need to lift 400 pounds?
Like I said last week, if you want to see human beings at their height of physical fitness, you have to turn the clock back about 20,000 years. If the lifestyles of modern-day hunter-gatherers are any indication, your ancestors were way more fit than you. How’s this for analogy: Paleo-man is to ‘carved out of wood’ as you are to white bread. Modern man is a flabby, out-of-shape wimp. “But,” you protest, “I spend fifteen hours a week in the gym pumping iron and running on an elliptical machine! Surely that makes me better than some hairy Ice Age brute.”
Yes, perhaps you are more outwardly muscular than Mr. Cro-Magnon Man. But look at modern hunter-gatherers living on the savannah: none of them look like Kimbo Slice, or even Mr. T. There is more to being healthy, fit, and trim than counting repetitions and bulking up and drinking Gatorade. Our ancestors didn’t pencil in a block of time each day for ‘workout’. Bushmen get their exercise in the course of their normal day, chasing gazelle, climbing trees, throwing spears or shooting a bow-and-arrow (chances are so did your great-great-grandfather, who probably had to chop wood, make tools, and plow his fields by hand). While I’d like to be as hale as the former, I could happily settle for the latter.
Here’s a novel idea: instead of buying a Bowflex, buy (or even make!) a bow and learn to shoot it; master some stairs instead of hopping on the Stairmaster; don’t run laps around the track, map out a route and take a jog around town (you might even take a bag and pick up trash along the way).
Human beings weren’t meant to get their exercise the way most people do now: under florescent lights, hooked up to a machine (identical to the one next to it), in front of a window, unable to feel the wind or the sun on your face. We evolved in an ever-changing landscape, not separate from it. A change of scenery can transform exercise from drudgery to fun, but the scene out the window of the [campus Athletic Center] rarely changes.