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'It is natural and normal to be physically lazy'
Daniel Lieberman, an expert in human evolutionary biology, posed in a 2015 paper, "Is Exercise Really Medicine? An Evolutionary Perspective," says that it's not our natural inclination to exercise for health alone.
"It is natural and normal to be physically lazy," he writes. "I predict that hunter-gatherers in the Kalahari or the Amazon are just as likely as 21st century Americans to instinctually avoid unnecessary exertion. Although a small percentage of people today exercise as a form of medicine, doing their prescribed dose, the vast majority of people today behave just as their ancestors by exercising only when it is fun (as a form of play) or when necessary."
Lieberman explains that our ancestors struggled to amass enough food to make up for the calories they burned tracking down that food. So they needed to conserve their energy when they could.
Cardinal, as well as Lieberman, think this idea that our penchant for rest is an evolutionary trait humans must fight continually may actually improve people's relationships with exercise. There is so much self and societal shame associated with not working out, that going to the gym, or for a run, can often feel like a chore. If they can stop berating themselves and accept that wanting to skip a workout is a completely normal human response, they might begin to untangle the negative associations with exercise.
"People are often made to feel bad [for not exercising] and I think that's just as pernicious and wrong and irresponsible as shaming people for being overweight," Lieberman said. It's not our fault that we are physically inactive, we live in a world that encourages that. They shouldn't be made to feel bad. We need help and we've created a world where we don't have to do it anymore."
Educating people on the health benefits of exercise and movement is not enough to override this basic instinct, he said.
'It is natural and normal to be physically lazy' - professor | Stuff.co.nz (external - login to view)