Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
3 Jan

A Different Kind of Fitness Resolution

Same Old, Something NewIt’s the month when gym memberships spike and fitness equipment flies off store shelves. I think most of us begin the year wanting to be healthier, and fitness stands as an essential element of that endeavor. Logical. Reasonable. Commendable. Yet, the common interpretation of what it will take to get there suddenly veers off in a white knuckle, nonsensical detour. Yes, let’s hear it for the chronic cardio model. As a former cardio king, I rack my brain questioning why so many people still subscribe to the “exhaustion or bust” mentality. (It’s unfortunately one of the reasons many said memberships will go unused by the middle of next month and the aforementioned equipment will begin gathering dust in a corner.) As with so many aspects of healthy living, the conventional fitness culture often misleads because it ignores what can and should be its ultimate guide – the nuanced role of physical activity in evolution and the simple but rather elegant connections that movement has to overall vitality.

Sure, this could be a book unto itself (or several). What got me thinking was a New York Times article called “Exercise and the Ever Smarter Human Brain.” It highlights research that connects higher endurance capacity in species to larger brain-to-body size proportions as well as the effect of “endurance exercise” on BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), a protein associated with brain growth and neuroplasticity. According to anthropologist David A. Raichlen, the extra BDNF that our human forebears developed in their endurance pursuits (e.g. chasing prey) was able to “migrate” to the brain’s use. Over time and selection, the added BNDF became a boon to early human cognition. Incidentally, research today suggests the same principle. When we exercise, we benefit from a temporary boost in BDNF and an apparent upregulation in cellular processing of BDNF. With more BDNF in circulation, researchers speculate that more is available to be assimilated into central tissue and offer beneficial neurological impact.

I love this. (But there’s one thing that sticks in my craw.) Let me explain. I love it because it highlights an absolutely essential principle that still doesn’t get enough press: movement is critical for cognitive health and neuroplasticity – the forces that keep us sharp and creative over the course of our lifetime. It also connects evolution with our current physiological needs. (Gotta love the Grok factor.) Our bodies and brains need exercise today because we are products of an evolutionary design that intertwined them both.

As for the frustrating bit, I question how many people will look at “endurance” and think the only way to access this benefit is to slog away on the treadmill or spin (class) themselves into delirium. As I’ve said many a time, our ancestors’ version of endurance didn’t involve marathon training. Chasing prey – even to the point of exhaustion (as the researchers who were noted in said article postulate) – wasn’t an exercise in constant motion. Mental tenacity and strategy would’ve mattered as much if not more than actual physical endurance. This kind of persistence hunting wouldn’t have been an everyday occurrence anyway. Grok’s endurance was built around a mix of extended walking and low level activity interspersed with bouts of power, strength, and sprinting.

It’s the nature of our evolutionary activity that tells us the most when we’re looking to expand our own physical abilities. Our ancestors’ fitness developed through frequent but fractal activity. Their movement was variable throughout the days and weeks. It often took precision but also let loose in creative play. It was rarely rushed. Although it might have been routine at times, it wasn’t careless.

Sometimes in our motivation to get to the next level fitness-wise (whether we’re beginners or performance athletes), we simply push ourselves harder at the same game, the same activities, the same game. It’s not what our evolutionary story suggests is the answer, and it’s not what modern research tells us is the most effective path.

In an interesting new field of research called neuromovement, for example, experts like Anat Baniel emphasize the potential of movement to build new neurological pathways that in turn support expanding physical abilities and healthier neurological functioning. It’s reciprocal benefit at its best that taps into – as well as extends – the powers of neuroplasticity. (The body and brain after all are still as imbricated as they were in their evolutionary development.) The approach has revolutionary potential for those with chronic pain or movement based disorders and disabilities, but the philosophy behind neuromovement can benefit people without impairments and even professional athletes. The fact is, we all have rigidity of some kind to move past – whether it’s a wall we hit in our performance or a limited focus in what we do for movement and exercise in a day.

Baniel highlights nine “essentials” that offer food for thought in rethinking movement in our lives. Within these, she stresses the importance of elements like attention, subtlety, awareness, slowness, and variation. (I think there’s something decidedly Primal at work here.) It’s worth asking, how these principles can help us break boundaries in our own fitness and movement each day.

Whether it’s the ancestral model of the PB or the nuances of the latest neuromovement research, what a contrast there is to how we often approach movement today. We look for every technological contraption and short cut to avoid 90% of activity a day but then spend an hour making up for our sedentary life on the same machine doing the same mindless motion? The struggle that characterized our evolution was anything but sedentary. Likewise, the terrain that refined our development wasn’t anything akin to an elliptical machine. Although we’re burning calories, strengthening some muscles, and offering our cardiovascular system a sporadic (but not ideal) bout of exertion, we’re missing out on the full, subtle, and fractal spectrum of physical benefits – not to mention the plain fun.

Thanks for reading today, everyone. Do your resolutions include something in the fitness realm? Good luck with your new year challenges, and offer your thoughts in the comment board. Have a great weekend.

The Sequel to The Primal Blueprint Releases on January 8

Next week (next week!) I’ll be releasing The Primal Connection, the long-awaited sequel to The Primal Blueprint. As friends and colleagues within the ancestral movement have so generously described, The Primal Connection offers the first really new dimension in the paleo/Primal space in years. Is there any better way to start the new year – not to mention the fact that we all survived the Mayan apocalypse? In all seriousness, I’ve been pumped about this launch for months now.

Like The Primal Blueprint, The Primal Connection is both a culmination and expansion of principles I’ve first introduced here on MDA. It picks up where The Primal Blueprint left off, by extending the primal theme beyond the diet and exercise basics. In it I present a comprehensive plan to overcome the flawed mentality and hectic pace of high-tech, modern life and reprogram your genes to become joyful, care-free, and at peace with the present. Inherent to The Primal Connection is the concept that we can use the model of our ancestors to create not just a healthier existence but also a more balanced and fulfilling life. My hope is that upon reading it you’ll emerge with a renewed appreciation for the simple pleasures of life and our most precious gifts of time, health, and love.

Just as I did for Primal Blueprint Healthy Sauces, Dressings & Toppings earlier this month, I’ll have something special put together for devoted Mark’s Daily Apple readers when this book is released on January 8th, 2013. So mark your calendar and be ready to jump on the offer while it lasts.

P.S. If you’ve pre-ordered a copy of The Primal Connection, don’t worry. All pre-orders will be eligible to receive the free bonuses that will be part of the book release offer.

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Mark,

    I couldn’t agree with this more. As a society we have been caught up in this cycle of instant gratification that purely leads to the search for the shortest and easiest solution to all of our problems.

    People need to reframe things around health, rather than purely weight loss and muscle building/toning for aesthetic improvements. When you focus is on health, weight loss and other such benefits naturally follow.

    Its like in business – when you shift your focus to helping people, rather than making money, the money naturally follows. Its a win-win!

    Great insights as always, I learn so much from your blog :)

    Toby Edge wrote on January 3rd, 2013
    • “Its like in business – when you shift your focus to helping people, rather than making money, the money naturally follows.”

      If only this were really true. I’ve been working in the non-profit sector since grad school (I’m now 41) and most of us are seriously under-paid. But we aren’t in this work for the money.

      I do agree with your sentiment on fitness however, most people need a mental shift change regarding fitness goals.

      mars wrote on January 3rd, 2013
      • Fair enough – I was being a little bit vague with my assertion there and was not trying to suggest that all areas of business and work lead to riches when the focus is on helping others.

        I understand fully that non-profit workers do a wonderful job without reaping the monetary benefits they deserve.

        I was actually referring to the line of work I am in – health coaching, largely on the internet (within the internet marketing framework) where many, many people fail because they are only after the money, rather than trying to help others.

        When this mind-set is switched, success comes far more easily.

        Toby Edge wrote on January 4th, 2013
  2. Thanks for breaking science down for those of us who struggle with it! (and for all you do)

    Tracy wrote on January 3rd, 2013
    • Agreed Tracy, nice to have clear explanation on this! Definitely a criticism of people being introduced to Paleo: the concept is easy to understand but once you start talking about the science their eyes glaze over!

      Best MDA tip: ultimate frisbee… done it a few times and you never realise you are “exercising”. It’s strategic, fun, quick thinking and ultimately amazing exercise.

      Also less violent than the rugby I grew up playing!

      Patrice wrote on January 3rd, 2013
  3. I never got the thing with people walking (or running) the treadmill only to then take the elevator back down and the car back home…. Moving around outdoors, has so many more benefits then just “to move your body”. I’m so glad I found the primal movement to back me up on this! :-)

    Liesel wrote on January 3rd, 2013
    • Yes. Or people driving around the parking lot of the gym looking for the closest parking space. LOL

      Harry Mossman wrote on January 3rd, 2013
      • Ha, ha – good one! :-) I had a friend once that claimed “no matter what she did, would she lose any weight” – but she never walked a meter unless she really had to. Took the car everywhere – but spent good money on going to the gym for an hour once a week….

        Liesel wrote on January 3rd, 2013
    • I just never drive. I don’t really ever “work out” other than yoga and a few minutes of creative calisthenics or a sprint when I just happen to think of it. Other than that I just bike everywhere. I’ll pass the various athletic clubs and see people under florescent lights paying money to bike nowhere. Having places to be don’t cost nothin’.

      Samtop wrote on January 5th, 2013
  4. Personal experience agrees with this.

    For me, nothing (not even healthy eating) comes close to improving mental well-being and general cognitive function as well as exercising.

    If I slack off in the gym, I feel a difference within days. Same when I start working out again, the benefits are almost immediate.

    Didn’t make any new years resolutions this year.

    Kris Gunnars wrote on January 3rd, 2013
    • Same. When I don;t get any exercise in an entire day because of classes or travel, etc I just feel slow and chubby.

      I also can’t think straight. Its almost like the exercise takes the edge off of my energy so that I can truly focus on the task at hand (studying for classes, taking tests, etc. Yes, I am an undergrad :) )

      Why no resolutions?

      Max Ungar wrote on January 3rd, 2013
      • Because he never slacks off 😉

        Whitefox999 wrote on January 3rd, 2013
      • I have never made a new years resolution in my life (45 yo). I always found the idea to be absurd. If something needs doing then a good time to do it is now. Why wait for some date on a calender.

        Drazen wrote on January 3rd, 2013
  5. I thought the San (supposed to be the ‘original people’) DID/ DO hunt through persistence hunting… maybe not everyday, but regularly…

    antipodes wrote on January 3rd, 2013
    • Many do. This is the (slightly ridiculous) nature of lumping specific behaviors into “primal.” It makes no sense to pretend that people 10,000 years ago all lived similarly, eating and behaving the same.

      Yesterday someone commented that capitalism is the most primal form of economics. Yet most pre-literate people in the world today either a) have no concept of private ownership and live in near-pure communism, or b) live in strict “physical might makes right” hierarchies. When you have a very small tribe, everyone works for the betterment of the tribe — the opposite of capitalism.

      We bend over backwards to see primitive man as a mirror of ourselves, without modern comforts. The observable record of “cave people” doesn’t conform to this view.

      Like all things in life, take what works for you and leave the rest behind.

      michael wrote on January 3rd, 2013
      • +1

        BillP wrote on January 5th, 2013
  6. Love Anat Baniel. I have her book and a DVD for healthy backs. She’s amazing! There is video on youtube of her work with impaired children that is nothing short of miraculous! Check her out!

    rose wrote on January 3rd, 2013
  7. Can’t wait for the new book.

    I’m hoping the pre-orders on a Kindle get the bonuses too!

    Phil Bear wrote on January 3rd, 2013
  8. I just want to express my disdain for commercial gyms and the people who use them.

    rob wrote on January 3rd, 2013
    • Rob-
      I understand your disdain. You’re probably imagining a box gym filled with rows and rows of elliptical machines, leg press machines, and all sorts of other machines. But to lump all gyms and all gym users into one disdainful category is a bit harsh.

      A gym is what you make of it. I’m fortunate enough to have access to a world class, small training gym, where all of the trainers focus on functional movements. Of course, it is still stocked with standard gym equipment, but it’s all about how you use the tools that you have. For someone like me, who can’t risk being outside in the dark after work, the gym is a great alternative. Am I spending an hour on the treadmill? No. But the gym can be a house for medicine balls, free weights, space to sprint, and all sorts of other Grok-adapted toys.

      Christa Crawford wrote on January 3rd, 2013
  9. Ran into a record amount of people on my weekly MT Work hike yesterday,must have been a few New Years Resolutions present!
    Will they still be at it in 6 months?

    Peter C. wrote on January 3rd, 2013
  10. My exercise resolutions are:
    1. Hike once per week(which is very easy to do in AZ). Started with Treasure Loop trail on New Year’s Day!
    2.Start doing sprinting sessions at the primal minimum of once per 7-10 days(a perfect path for this is at the park near home).
    3.Do a daily ten minute Mobility WOD

    The rest is habitual for me since 2012 resolutions… daily morning walk out my front door which is also my thinking time and lifting heavy things at home.
    Happy New Year everyone!

    KerryC wrote on January 3rd, 2013
  11. The notion of humans “chasing prey” always seems a bit silly to me. Either the animal is slow, like a mastodon, and there is no need to chase it very far, or the animal is too fast to begin with.

    At the beginning of the movie Apocalypto we see men that appear to be chasing a pig. But they are not actually chasing the pig, they are running full speed for a short distance to lead it into a trap. This short and intense version of a hunt, along with stalking or lying in wait is much more in line with reality.

    The idea that humans would run 15 (or whatever number) miles after food is mainly an illusion. Many early humans probably never ventured much further than that from home, unless circumstances forced them out (such was Jared Diamonds experience with traditional cultures in New Guinea). There are very few animals in the world that humans could chase for miles and catch, to say nothing of the energy and glycogen dispensed in such a chase.

    Nathan wrote on January 3rd, 2013
    • You’re right – chasing animals for miles at moderate to high speed seems unlikely. But walking or jogging a few miles to get to where the animals are is not unlikely. Probably not an everyday activity, but some endurance is required. My guess is that increased endurance is a natural byproduct of living a life of low but steady and constant motion and effort that was (is) probably typical of hunter-gatherers.

      Mark A wrote on January 3rd, 2013
    • Well I’m no anthropologist, but I could imagine their being an advantage of chasing and manauvering and out “endurancing” a mastodon to the point of exhaustion so you can kill it with less risk of trying to slay it straight up.

      This isn’t necessarily an illusion either, as I always understood humans lost their fur, and developed sophisticated sweat glands and lung capacity to win the endurance war due to selection pressures. These advantages didn’t just arise out of sheer circumstance. Someone down the ancestral path relied heavily on these features for some reason or another….

      Now it also stands to reason, that our ancestors probably only did this once a month or so as a Mammoth could feed a tribe for a long time I bet. To think we need to run ourselves to exhaustion 3 times a week or more is a mistake nonetheless.

      Kevin wrote on January 3rd, 2013
      • If they only did it once a month or so, they wouldn’t have had the endurance capacity to run more than a few miles or the endurance equivalent. Not to mention that killing a mastodon wouldn’t have required humans to perform at a chronic cardio like endurance level. A quick study of elephants tells you that playing endurance games with elephants can be quite dangerous, and something humans would have largely avoided. Just hunting large pray at a slow, focused, deliberate pace, or lying in wait, is dangerous enough.

        So far as sweat glands are concerned; I was always under the impression that they developed to keep us cool. Leaving the shade of the trees is probably the reason for this. After all, dogs don’t sweat, and they have more endurance than about any animal on the planet.

        Nathan Young wrote on January 3rd, 2013
        • We were also mostly hunting quadripeds. These animals can’t breathe while running like we can, so it wasn’t chasing them to catch up. Many times it was merely chasing them to the point they can’t run anymore, tire them out. Most of these animals tire out after 10ish minutes of running.

          J Money wrote on January 3rd, 2013
        • The human hunters wouldn’t have needed all that much endurance to persistence hunt, since they would have been walking and jogging in turns while the the animal would have been sprinting, though I do think the depiction presented by Attenborough was a bit far-fetched, mainly because their method of hunting used less planning and brain power than something wolves or lions would engage in. I think it is more likely that the humans would learn the fleeing habits of their prey and then plant someone along a likely path while others spooked the animals in his direction. The animal would be much easier to kill after being exhausted from sprinting, and the humans would actually be using their massively developed brains.

          Charles wrote on January 3rd, 2013
      • “This isn’t necessarily an illusion either, as I always understood humans lost their fur, and developed sophisticated sweat glands and lung capacity to win the endurance war due to selection pressures. These advantages didn’t just arise out of sheer circumstance. Someone down the ancestral path relied heavily on these features for some reason or another..”

        My friend who is the cardio queen uses all this logic to justify her addiction to marathoning. I admit I’m highly suspicious of all it. :(

        We share an interesting overlaps physiologically with both pigs and chimps and not a soul claims either one of them exhaust prey to death. We have the largest brains on the planet. Why wouldn’t use it? It only takes a few missed long distance exhaustion hunts before you’re the loser calorie wise.

        Long distance walking to explain all those body features, I’d buy any day of the week. Marathon type running, even for hunting — not so much

        Amy wrote on January 3rd, 2013
    • The marathon was a messenger service in Greece, not a hunt for food. But, yes, I get your point. Great site!

      Jacalore wrote on January 3rd, 2013
    • Fun film, Apocalypto.

      Madama Butterfry wrote on January 3rd, 2013
    • Very very interesting concept, not what we have seen from the Paleo community

      Rafael wrote on January 5th, 2013
  12. That’s one of the main reasons I got into Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. It’s a great way to work out the entire body, and you’re constantly thinking about strategy entire time. You can’t be grappling without being completely mentally engaged with what you’re doing.

    When I’m training I feel like I’m further strengthening the mind body connection, more so than when I’m running on a trip.

    Bjjcaveman wrote on January 3rd, 2013
    • I agree. You can run/lift weights for a year or less and learn just about everything there is to learn. But BJJ and other forms of MMA are a lifelong journey of learning and improving. One of my old coaches is a world-renowned blackbelt in 6 different arts, yet at almost 60 years old he is working on his 7th blackbelt.

      jrVegantoPrimal wrote on January 3rd, 2013
    • I was thinking along the same lines. I practice traditional karate and the masters are always telling us to slow down, get rid of conscious strength, focus, develop awareness, imagine opponents. When I read the Nine Essentials article I was struck by the similarities.

      I have to say, combat with other humans, even in a sporting context, is just about as primal as it gets!

      BZM wrote on January 5th, 2013
  13. Last word Should have been treadmill

    Bjjcaveman wrote on January 3rd, 2013
  14. Sports, swimming, running through a natural uneven area like a forest, climbing, and jumping especially on a trampoline seem to me to be some of the most useful activities for building neural pathways for movement. They all involve variety, spontaneity, and adaption.
    I think caffeine might potentially help here too. Supposedly it aids learning and the formation of new neural paths. Sometimes when I consume caffeine I move differently after, usually depending on the amount, and I know I’m not alone.

    Animanarchy wrote on January 3rd, 2013
  15. Great information on BDNF!

    In connection to that finding, I hope there’s an audio book version of the Primal Connection upcoming…

    …as I always try to challenge my mind to learn something new while doing short jogs (groks?) through the savannah.

    William wrote on January 3rd, 2013
  16. Stan Tenen has come up with the theory that the Hebrew alphabet is based upon geometrical formulas that involve the hand. He believes the Hebrew alphabet–in part–grew out of meditative dancing, thereby connecting the intellectual, the spiritual, and the physical. A lot of his material is esoteric (though based in math), but that movement/mind connection is definitely there.

    Kent H wrote on January 3rd, 2013
  17. Hi Mark! Just had to write,been following PB for many months with few breaks. Have only lost the same 4 or 5 lbs. over & over. I’m in good health, but exercise if a big problem! The ONLY time in my life when I stayed at a very good weight for me was when I had access to a really good exercise bike and could stay on it at a good pace for at least 45 minutes. I enjoyed it but liked the weight maintenance even more. Now, I live where I can’t fit a bike in this small place, can’t afford a gym, and if I try walking, jogging outside, it is impossible. The weather for most of the year is SO cold and wet and unbearable, that there is no way I’m going out there. Pleas HELP!! I’m stuck and really need to lose about 20-30 lbs. Eating no refined carbs just isn’t going to be enough to get me there. Also comment on the recent study which stated that “aerobic rather than weight resistance caused greater weight loss.” I want to know more about this research. Thank you so much. SB

    Sharla wrote on January 3rd, 2013
    • Random thoughts:

      1. Move if the weather really is that bad (OR) buy half decent outdoor gear including boots/grips. The Intuit spend a lot of time out of doors in the arctic and they traditionally spent alot of time making good gear. The outdoors is alot more enjoyable if you aren’t freezing through it.

      2. Clear out (sell!) some clutter and wait to til mid-February to buy a used stationary bike.

      3. Do Paleo but also count calories to make sure you’re not overeating.

      I’ve been up against the exact same challenges. (Lack of $$$ continues to this day.) At some point you just need to fix the problem by prioritizing resources. :(

      Amy wrote on January 3rd, 2013
    • Burpees, jumping jacks, squats, leg raises, calf raises, put a bar in your doorway for chin-ups/pull-ups. By a couple dumbells to lift once in awhile. Stand while eating and watching TV instead of sitting. There’s a lot you can do with little/no money if you start thinking with movement as a priority.

      Also, if you’re new to Paleo, don’t worry about the number on the scale so much. A lot of us found, especially at first, that we weren’t losing weight, but we were getting smaller and more toned. The weight just went from fat to muscle.

      Susie wrote on January 4th, 2013
  18. Great article Mark. Personally, the treadmill is a bore. If you’re gonna run, why not do it outside where you get the advantages of the fresh air, birds chirping, and changing scenery? This year I’ve given up my gym membership for the outdoors. Hiking, running, sprinting, body exercises, etc. Bring it on.

    Chika wrote on January 3rd, 2013
    • Not sure why people are so anti-Endurance? I think the mentality that fails at endurance is the one that doesn’t build but expects to be able to have a certain type of fitness regardless of preparation. Endurance also doesn’t equal fitness or health. Over-training and not respecting your body is one thing but its not like people can’t take the primal concept with them into endurance type activities. Some people aren’t good at sprinting or power, nobody should chastise either choice, and its not like people who do endurance type activities don’t incorporate strength, power and sprinting into endurance lifestyle. Sure some people are killing themselves and over stressing their body with endurance training and carbo-loading on junk and supplementing while eating crap, but nobody should stereotype. If you love to do Endurance activities I suggest you learn how to adapt primal ideas and concepts with what you love. After all nobody should give up something that brings them joy and I don’t necessarily believe endurance type activities are for everyone but that doesn’t mean excluding from ones lifestyle as a mutually exclusive proposition, most people don’t think or look at life that way, why can’t someone be Primal/Paleo enjoy endurance as well as the power, strength, sprinting and multiple movements in their lives as well as perdiozing and having rest periods and be reasonably healthy? Nothing would suggest to me that you know why or anyone has a study that has an answer to this.

      D wrote on January 3rd, 2013
      • Oops not meant as a response to you. Was suppose to be directed to the General community! Sorry!

        D wrote on January 3rd, 2013
        • no worries D. +1 on your comment. I agree, if one loves endurance exercise and is healthy and eats Paleo/Primal and cuts out the crappy gels/fuels, then let em enjoy it.

          Chika wrote on January 3rd, 2013
      • I’m against endurance activities because I consider them highly addictive and possibly as damaging to people as a mild drug addiction. Many marathon runners seem to succumb to a sort of joyless physical addiction to running. :(

        I’ve “lost” a good friend to endurance sport for the moment. In the last two years she acquired an injury that could have only come from overtraining. Before her injury, I tried to approach her, but “she knew what she was doing”. I wasn’t a “runner”, you see.

        When she found out about her injury, her reaction was that her only choices were endurance sport or couch potato. I tried to gentle point out there was a world of other sports, it was like talking to a wall.

        She ended up deciding to pursue fixing the injury (only required to run more marathons). She’s spent thousands of dollars to date to run marathons and it’s her only “hobby”. At this point I avoid talking about a big part of her life because it pains me to see her slowly degrade her health. I’m not “supportive” in the same way I wouldn’t be “supportive” if she was struggling with a drinking issue.

        Phew! So does all that make me judgmental? Absolutely. Is everyone who marathons the same as my friend? In absolute fairness, no. But then again, I don’t even pretend to understand why people would risk their health on this stuff. We all end up as plant food in the end anyway, no matter how many marathons we run. :(

        Amy wrote on January 3rd, 2013
        • I disagree Amy with your last comment. We need to enjoy the ride, we might end up in the same place but we all leave a piece of ourselves with others. The Addiction some people have over endurance activities is disturbing no question about it. I honestly believe some people use it to mask areas in their lives that they are deficient in and don’t know how to deal with something, using it as a coping mechanism. But we have to be aware of those things regardless of what they are. Being a multidimensional human being, having multiple interests and hobbies other than running, triathlons etc. I have lost friends to many a strange addiction where they seem to loose touch with being human. I have never been into competitive sports though on any level, love to do things for the fun of it, I know that personality can be indicative of how someone views any activity and can be the difference between something being addictive or an active choice someone chooses to include in their lives.

          D wrote on January 4th, 2013
  19. “Our bodies and brains need exercise today because we are products of an evolutionary “design” that intertwined them both.”

    Wouldn’t “process” be better than “design”.

    Alex wrote on January 3rd, 2013
  20. I installed one of those treadmill desks in my office. I walk on it about 3 to 5 miles/day. I am not a big believer on running marathons (too lazy.) Nobody can convinced me that running marathons is healthy, specially seeing some of the people who run them. They look like they have bigger issues than I do (they are delirious, in pain, in shock, etc…) I am hoping I don’t fall into the cardio king category…I am not out of breath or anything…. I like the fact that I do tend to get super sleepy by 930PM (ever since I got the treadmill.)

    Nacho D'Amour wrote on January 3rd, 2013
    • Chronic cardio isn’t really walking 3 to 5 miles a day. It seems to me you’ve achieved human “normal”. And you aren’t lazy if you avoid marathons. You’re smart to not run like an idiot for 26 miles in a row. “No pain, no gain” is a bit overrated. 😉

      Amy wrote on January 3rd, 2013
      • Careful now!!! I don’t mistake my love of distance events (marathon and Ironman) as a the ultimate in “health”. I do it out of love for pushing myself. I don’t turn off my brain and grind out hours on a dreadmill, I go outside and experience the world from a bicycle or on foot. I ride past almond orchards in bloom, then watch them being harvested in the Fall. I smell the citrus and peaches ripen as I cruise by at a gentle 9 min/mile pace. It is my prayer time, my anti-iPhone time, my introspection time. I make lists, or I think about nothing at all. I can run 26 miles in 3 hours, and I take pride in that because I couldn’t do it before I committed to developing my body in that area.
        I’m not saying I’m totally balanced in my pursuit of health and fitness (my upper body and core need work to be sure), but please don’t call me an idiot for finding distance running to be a meditative and mentally positive.

        Michael wrote on January 3rd, 2013
        • Do you need to run 26 miles in a row to get the positives? And why 26 miles? Why not 19 or 6 or 31 miles? What’s wrong with walking for 3 hours?

          You see where I’m going with this? It’s possible to get all the positive benefits of long distance running without all the risks by going for a walk or much shorter runs. Yes, certainly be proud of yourself for your achievements. But why do so much running on regular basis if it creates such imbalances in your life? *headshake* :(

          Amy wrote on January 3rd, 2013
        • 26 miles is the standard marathon distance. people with lots of slow twitch muscles (some research for you) have a naturally large amount of cardio endurance. they need to go for longer to build their fitness. there is nothing like the adrenalin rush from a) the feeling of flight that comes from running- walking is not the same b) achieving something hard- like a long distance run c) stopping exercise just after you pushed yourself through the pain barrier and d) having that special time where you can escape into your mind and think things through. if it’s not your ‘hit’ you wouldn’t understand.

          injury is a risk that comes with exercise. everything comes with risks. not everything has to be done for a health benefit either. not everyone has to have the perfectly toned body (that would be boring if we all did). there are far worse things for your health to be spending your time doing than running so if killer cardio is what makes someone happy then they hould go for it.

          themilkmoustachekid wrote on January 4th, 2013
  21. Squeaky snow and frozen nose hair = winter hiking in New England. It was 5 degrees this morning, had to double up on the insulated underwear. It was very invigorating and it sure cleared my head.

    Kathy L. wrote on January 3rd, 2013
  22. Another idea is a fitdesk, a bike with a ‘desk’ on the front for a laptop or book. I ride mine 2 hours a day (1 hour morning and 1 in the afternoon) and I have lost weight and gained energy. I go slow, but I am moving!

    Mary Pascoe wrote on January 3rd, 2013
  23. I just have to ask because these kind of assertions get thrown around here a bit much…

    “This kind of persistence hunting wouldn’t have been an everyday occurrence anyway. Grok’s endurance was built around a mix of extended walking and low level activity interspersed with bouts of power, strength, and sprinting.”

    How do you know?

    Stephanie wrote on January 3rd, 2013
    • Nobody does know for sure. It’s a best guess based on watching animals in the wild and how people hunt today.

      Modern deer hunters, regardless of weapon, do not run for hours at time to chase prey. They walk (sometimes long distances) to where deer are likely to be, bait traps and/or simply wait and then spring into action once the deer arrives. If they are successful, there’s a long walk back with a heavy load. Running is a waste of precious energy for what promises to be a long day.

      Amy wrote on January 3rd, 2013
      • Exactly, we make educated guesses or at best a hypothesis based on data. All I’m trying to point out is that these kind of outright assertions need to be toned down to 1. not make this one big echo chamber, and 2. so that the things respected people in this gig are not laughed at by the mainstream and by the scientific community. There is no person on the planet that witnessed anything our ancestors did. Therefore, the phrase I quoted along with other such similar assertions are absurd to say with a straight face.

        Stephanie wrote on January 3rd, 2013
        • All blogs risk being echo chambers, although I’d argue at this point in time that most published academic journals are far prone to echo chamber effect than people in the blogsphere who are encountering random comments on a regular basis.

          The sentence could be toned down, but it would make really dull reading. I’ve also done enough arguing online and in person (not a good habit 😉 ) that when people think an idea is outlandish or just wrong it doesn’t matter how you phrase it.

          Amy wrote on January 3rd, 2013
        • It does have an impact actually, because this is the face of “paleo” which is really an unfortunate name for what has turned out to be a wonderful grassroots movement for better healthcare information and counseling. I don’t think it’s a surprise to Mark or anyone posting on here that this site among others has become somewhat of an ambassador for this movement. And if it continues to use this rhetoric, then it ensures that the mainstream and academic world can cut it down and diminish it without ever giving fair play. Sadly the academic take is truly a superficial comprehension of what people in this movement believe and are about. Phrases like the quoted do not help.

          Stephanie wrote on January 4th, 2013
  24. Thanks Mark, for sharing great post and definitely food for thought!

    Roy B wrote on January 3rd, 2013
  25. I’ve been doing Paleo for 21 days now Exercising religiously and eating “clean.” I have noticed some changes especially in my midsection. I am soooo impatient. When can I realistically expect to see obvious chiseling of my body? Help from anyone. Need support.

    Kim wrote on January 3rd, 2013
    • Usually 6 weeks isn’t it? If you keep at it.

      Madama Butterfry wrote on January 3rd, 2013
    • I think the key is using this experimental time to figure out what macronutrient balance is right for you, together with the right caloric intake.

      By “right,” I mean the right balance/calories to get you to where you want to be – wherever that is. It will vary and change over time, but it’s an invaluable thing to figure out so you can tweak from there as your needs change.

      A good place to start is the macro balance/caloric intake suggested for Kelly Korg (in Mark’s book The Primal Blueprint). Try it, or change it, as needed, for you, and then keep tweaking until you get it right.

      There’s no way to know how long the process will take. One thing to keep in mind is that it’s possible to eat paleo and “clean” and still be eating too much for you. That’s why you need to figure out the right macro balance/caloric intake for the changes you want to happen.

      Mark suggests tracking on the free site It’s hugely helpful. Give it a try. (And yes, it means you’ll be weighing and measuring your food, which isn’t the most fun thing to be doing, but it’s well worth the effort).

      Hope this helps. Best of luck.

      Susan Alexander wrote on January 3rd, 2013
    • How drastically you change would partially depend on how much body fat you need to lose. At 7 months into the PB lifestyle, I’ve lost 55 lbs. I started out at about 255 on a 5’7″ frame. I lost about 17 lbs in the first month, but I believe a lot of that was water weight, as your kidneys will rebalance your water retention when you stop eating the grains and seed oils prevalent in the average diet.
      A good book to check out is The Metabolic Typing Diet by William Wolcott. He talks about finding your personal diet type, as some people do better with a slightly higher carb ratio while others do better with lower carbs and higher protein and fat. He doesn’t advise dropping grains entirely as most of the paleo folks do, but I think he’s spot on about different people needing different protein/fat/carb ratios. If you cruise the different Paleo blogs, you’ll find comments from some people how they didn’t feel good until they started adding a higher ratio of good carbs ( like sweet potatoes and squash) back into their diet. It’s all info, and really helped me when I was first trying to figure out how to eat this way. Good luck on your journey!

      BJML wrote on January 4th, 2013
  26. Mark

    I cannot wait for your book, I already have 2 I have two others I am reading but yours will jump the queue. The Primal Blueprint is the greatest health book ever written, I love it. Can’t wait for this.

    Andy wrote on January 3rd, 2013
  27. This site is becoming a little too judgmental. I use the treadmill because I actually enjoy running and it’s too cold and icy to be outside. I use the bike and elliptical as well. When it’s warmer outdoors I walk. Not really a big fan of running outdoors due to living in an urban area. But to forsake all gym equipment is really an extreme and foolish. For some people who don’t have access to year round perfect weather the gym is the only place they can go. Just my two cents for all those with pitchforks and torches standing outside the gym.

    Chris wrote on January 3rd, 2013
    • I agree with you Chris. I am a runner but had a safety scare a few months ago (2 men in a car harassing me at 5:30 am, very scary) and I’ve been spooked so I have been running and working out indoors until I’m feeling more confident.

      mars wrote on January 3rd, 2013
    • Good reply– not sure outside is the best for many readers depending on the environment. I have EIA so cold weather gets my asthma going– I have to run indoors for a few months but love running in the heat outdoors here in Tennessee.

      Rev. Dave Deppisch wrote on January 3rd, 2013
  28. Hi everyone. I am going to say it…I hate exercise. There that feels better. I love gardening and taking the dogs for a walk, and I am always looking for an opportunity to do something like digging holes, but the whole fitness thing leaves me cold. At the moment it’s too hot to do much in the middle of the day, but we get up early to garden and do chores. As for resolutions, I am going to learn how to play tennis this year, as it seems to tick a few boxes, strategy, eye hand co ordination, and sprinting. Thank you for this post, I will read my e book again about exercise, as I would like to loose more weight, but I can’t get too excited about gyms.

    Heather wrote on January 3rd, 2013
    • Haha, you are in Australia? Its Winter where I am at, I believe the high temp was 27. Tennis has always been something I wanted to start up.

      D wrote on January 3rd, 2013
  29. Mark– I tried reading your article while running a 10K race– about 4 miles in I took your advice and stopped to walk!

    OK so I am kidding– but I have traded my daily runs for daily walks and sprint a couple times a week now.

    I feel so much better and I am the only employee among the salaried workers here at Electrolux that stands all day at my desk. In my other job as a preacher I stand for only an hour or so.

    Happy New Year everyone!

    Rev. Dave Deppisch wrote on January 3rd, 2013
  30. Great article! Really got me thinking about my own approach to exercise. Also I just read the article you mentioned this weekend and was wondering what your thoughts on it were! Will be keeping this in mind.

    Taylor wrote on January 3rd, 2013
  31. Rock Climbing, a little hilly Trail Running, and lots of walking/hiking/backpacking takes care of most my exercise needs. All way more interesting than the gym.

    Dan wrote on January 3rd, 2013
  32. “After all, dogs don’t sweat, and they have more endurance than about any animal on the planet”

    Actually dos do sweat – througth the pads on their feet and their tongue – dogs also don’t really have much endurance – give me anydog and on a hot day the dog will give ut before I will. ALso there is plenty of evidence of persistence hunting by Hunter Gatherers. They did it at a reasonable pace and ran the animal to exhaustion. They also didn’t do it everyday. And they didn’t do it when they were tired and sore and fo a set amount of time etc etc

    john wrote on January 3rd, 2013
    • “on a hot day the dog will give ut before I will.”

      No,the dog just has more sense than you do.

      BillP wrote on January 6th, 2013
  33. Wouldn’t call it a New Year’s resolution; just a resolution…
    I’m working towards fulfilling my dream of being a personal trainer and getting out of the 8 hour desk job so I can truly help people.

    Also trying to do 3 crossfit WOD per week, if not more. Once I get in the swing of that, I will start adding a sprint session (those XFit sessions are sprint-like enough for me right now lol).

    Jacob wrote on January 4th, 2013
  34. I really enjoy dancing, whether in a zumba class or just dancing alone at my house – I hadn’t heard of the nine essentials before but was happy to discover that it seems like dancing covers most of them. At class the routines are always different so you’re learning while exercising, and at home I enjoy playing around with new styles and being creative, for instance doing bollywood moves to a disco song and seeing if they match up, or doing salsa dancing while hula hooping. It feels like play to me, stimulates my brain, and is great exercise.

    Jenny T wrote on January 4th, 2013
  35. I couldn’t agree more with this article Mark!

    I also feel that a lot of people think the best way to lose weight in the new year is to go to the gym.

    I actually just read this article which is very interesting and discuss if training really is that good for weight loss:

    Happy new year!

    Alex Peterson wrote on January 4th, 2013
  36. I spin twice a week (and sometimes more) and love it! I have RA and spinning has truly helped me knock this disease into submission. Not to mention TRX and yoga, along with healthy eating.

    Marybeth wrote on January 5th, 2013

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