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

Did Humans Evolve to Be Long-Distance Runners?

Thanks to the several readers who have pointed out this recent article in SEED Magazine which once again dredges up the tired argument that humans evolved to be long-distance runners. Most of you know by now that I totally disagree with that theory. I say humans evolved to be excellent slow movers (walk, jog, migrate, forage, crawl, scramble, etc) burning mostly fat. We also developed into pretty decent short sprinters, but we did NOT evolve to run long distances. Sure, early humans were all-around fit enough and capable of the occasional long easy jaunt after an animal, but to think that natural selection redesigned our simian shapes to run the Boston Marathon is, in my opinion, ludicrous.

We’ve hashed this out a bunch in the past when a Men’s Health magazine article a few years ago quoted Dr. Daniel Lieberman, a leading proponent of the “ER” (endurance running) hypothesis as suggesting that early humans would run an animal to death by chasing it for for 5 or 10 miles until it died of heat stroke. They call it persistence hunting. I find the idea – that this behavior led to some specialized human evolution as distance runners – to be preposterous on several levels. First, much of the fossil record suggests early humans were scavengers and lived pretty well off road kill until they started employing weapons a few hundred thousand years ago. No real need to run long distances when you can walk, hide, climb, sprint and crawl to scavenge. Secondly, it’s one thing to track and stalk an animal (using your superior intelligence) with walking, occasional jogging and a few sprints here and there. That’s a primarily fat-burning pursuit and it’s probably how our ancestors actually hunted. But once you have to shift into glucose/glycogen mode to run aggressively for long distances, it’s a whole different ballgame and you encounter a big problem. Run out of glycogen chasing a beast too long in the heat and you become exhausted yourself. If you are lucky enough to bag the beast, at least you get to eat now (albeit mostly protein and fats which won’t completely restore your glycogen reserves). But fail in your mission and your sorry, fatigued, glycogen-depleted butt is now vulnerable to becoming some other beast’s dinner. ER makes no sense to me from an evolutionary perspective.

So now comes Lieberman again in this latest study in The Journal of Experimental Biology (abstract) that compared the mechanical forces in the feet and the metabolic costs of generating these forces to arrive at the following conclusion: “The increased mechanical cost associated with long toes in running suggests that modern human forefoot proportions might have been selected for in the context of the evolution of endurance running.” He basically argues that humans evolved to have shorter toes than our simian relatives because longer-toed relatives were selected out. That same theory would therefore imply that longer-toed ancestors died off at a greater rate as a result of needing an average of a tiny bit more fuel to run after prey for long distances? Hmmm. I’m not buying it and I’m surprised that the JEB bought it. Since the study concluded that there is no difference in cost between long toes and short toes when walking, I could even use that data to shore up my theory that we evolved to be efficient walkers who could sprint when required and who were fit enough to run after the occasional mastodon if it made sense. And then there’s this: If men did most of the hunting, how is it that women are better suited to ultra running than men (compared to shorter running events) and a modern female like Ann Trason can beat most men today straight up in every ultra running event she enters? (Granted, she could be an outlier.)

Of course, the ER proponents typically cite the Tarahumara as current examples of the human genetic propensity to run long distances. This tribe of indigenous Mexican people are known for their prowess in running great distances (often 50-80 miles in a day) and for their participation in occasional persistence hunting, where they literally chase down deer until it is so exhausted they can walk up to it and kill it. But other scientists suggest that the Tarahumara’s endurance is based more on a cultural adaptation (no cars, no phones, no mail service), training, diet and conditioning than it is on heredity. Some 80% of their diet is complex carbs from grains and beans. That goes back to my primary argument as to why we did NOT evolve to be distance runners. Until we had a ready source of reliable high-carb fuel, made available through agriculture, any sort of regular distance running (chronic cardio) was a natural selection killer. Eating grains every day at every meal certainly replenishes the glycogen stores, so you can go out and do it again tomorrow. But why?

Most anthropologists would agree we didn’t evolve to swim. We learned how to make our way through water without drowning and we do it pretty effectively for a land mammal. That doesn’t make it natural or adaptive. Similarly, I say we learned to run marathons when we had the luxury of unlimited carbohydrates. That doesn’t make it adaptive or natural.

One final point I’ll address is the claim that the large size of the human gluteus maximus is further evidence in favor of the ER theory. I would argue that the move to bipedalism makes the default resting position the squat (as I touched on in this video) and that the range of motion and strength required for this position necessitates strong and well-developed gluteus maximus and hamstring muscles. Look no further than your local gym to see how people train these muscles – squats, lunges, deadlifts etc.

Further Reading:

Bloggers and Strength Coaches Name Their 3 Favorite Exercises

Washboard Abs on a High-Fat Diet, No Ab Workouts and No Cardio?

Vibram FiveFingers

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. Humans were long distance travelers, by running, walking, swimming, etc. But you think we competed with animals in ancient times. No, we competed with eachother. And it paid to be faster and stronger and able to cover more ground than the competition. Sometimes it paid to have great long distance endurance and speed when getting to the best hunting grounds faster, or when a warrior double-timed it to get the advance on his enemy, and still be ready for battle. Only the strongest and most enduring would survive. Most people didn’t live long back then. No need to worry about old age problems when you were lucky to live to 30. People of today have an easy life. I think the armies of Alexander the Great and other ancient armies had to have great long distance endurance to be able to travel the distances they did and still fight. Only the elite rode horses. But I don’t think that running at your maximum heartrate for competition is good for you at any distance. But running at a medium level probably is. It keeps me in shape and strong and I’m 42 running about 18 miles a week. I’m not heavy, so no ankle worries. I actually don’t eat much carbs.

    Jordan wrote on May 13th, 2009
  2. Even though I have little truly scientific knowledge about this, I would agree with the following.

    1. The human body is inferior to animals – except for long-distance running. The best long-distance runners can outrun any animal, whether it be a horse or dog.

    2. However, it’s not right to say that we evolved into long distance runners, for some of our ancestors did not hunt, but instead walked around and gathered stuff. Thus, while some of our traits are indeed advantageous for running (hence #1), many are not.

    3. It’s not clear cut and never will be. I’m a high school “long” distance runner with a 9:33 2 mile/ 4:32 mile and one would NEVER think that my parents are indeed my parents, if you get my drift. Theres no way they would, could, or should run.

    Dmitrij Petters wrote on May 17th, 2009
  3. Well guess what Gene, I think Mark has a lot more than his own personal expierience to work off of. I’ll tell you about mine, and im sure mine is similiar to others. I’m 18 now, and used to be a long distance runner; ran in high school. I ran about 40-50 miles a week, 5 days a week, for leisure(more like grueling work), and upwards of 70-80 for competition. I was pretty good, and always ran at medieum-high intensity. What was the payoff for this? I had to consume ALOT of food, mainly processed crap, and guess what? I felt like CRAP. I was always sick, but kept running. I had a myriad of leg injuries, and always felt tired. Very similiar to Mark…I was also underweight even with all the eating I did, and had little muscle mass. Eventually, I quit, I was tired of it all, and felt depressed. A couple months after I quit, I stumbled on this website, and tried the workouts suggested and food. Within a coupple weels I felt absolutely amazing. My leg injuries started disappearing one by one, even though I sprinted on them hard 2-3 times a week. I am never sick, and always feel energized. My blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides have lowered. After a couple months of this primal eating and short intense workouts, My body fat is a low 7 percent! It was 12 when I did long distance running. I dont need to work out as much and still have gained and maintained much more muscle mass and healthy weight than before (from 130 pounds to 155 with still 7 percent BF). Went from benching 105 to 165, and hope to get to 200 in the next couple months. I don’t know about records or fossils or anything about that I will admit, so i cant argue from a scientific standpoint, but does it really matter when you have personal expiereinces such as mine and Marks? This site is about reshaping your body and fitness to be the best it can be, and it has worked amazingly for me, and I can’t thank Mark enough for opening my eyes to it. I think it’s good in making exercise arguments to go off of empirical evidence, and whatever the fossil record may suggest, me and so many others on this site have the empirical evidence to show you that this works man, and that maybe it is an indicator that from an evolutionary standpoint this is the way to achieve optimum health.

    David Brzostowicki wrote on June 29th, 2009
    • You are 18? Some people have been running 3x as long as you are alive. I do not mean to discount your observations, but your don’t have much experience to back them up.

      Why did you have to consume a lot of processed food? I am 52 and I run 50+ miles a week and plan to run a 100 mile race in July. I don’t eat any processed food. I eat low carb. Run long and slow. I feel great.

      George wrote on February 17th, 2012
      • Yes. I am a mortician and have embalmed people who smoked until they are 90.

        You are using the oldest trick in the book to back up your argument….. “but that person is still doing it , so it must be Ok ”

        The fact is, a huge majority of smokers die younger, and a huge majority of young runners are injury plagued by mid 20s and are forced to give up.

        A small % are left to run in marathons.

        Saying otherwise is highly unethical and just makes everything else you say come under a cloud of doubt.

        Lloyd Shaw wrote on June 13th, 2016
  4. I don’t know where to put this comment, if I want it to be seen… Anyway, I’m fairly active and I mainly single speed mountain bike. The other day I tried some full on sprints on the sidewalk in front of my house. I didn’t sprint very far, and I only did a few. I cannot believe how sore my hip flexors and upper thighs are! I had no idea this would happen, can’t believe how long the soreness is lasting, and can’t believe how much I use these every day and don’t realize it. Is this normal for someone starting out with sprinting?

    John wrote on July 2nd, 2009
  5. Its very normal. I experienced the same thing. We do use these muscles daily but not with this kind of intensity.

    Give it a few days or even a week and go again. Gradually the recovery will only take a day or even less.

    The first time I did full-out sprints it took me about 9 days to recover, but then I did go a bit nuts the first time. IS there any other way to sprint?
    I’ll say this about it, it is exhilarating and exciting to move that fast!

    koko wrote on July 2nd, 2009
    • koko,

      Thanks for the reply! I’m so glad to know this is normal. I was just trying it out with my dog running down the grass. It does seem like something I should continue. I only did 3 or 5 short sprints that day… I’ll give it time, and increase my numbers and or distance slowly.

      Hopefully it will help my mountain bike riding as well!

      John wrote on July 2nd, 2009
  6. If we didn’t evolve to be long distance runners, why are we good at it? I think you’re forgetting that literally all of our qualities are a result of darwinian evolution. Persistence hunting does not rely on heat stroke, it relies on wounding an animal with thrown weapons and then tracking it until it is weak enough to kill without significant physical risk, and it is still practiced by most aboriginals today.

    Darwinist wrote on July 31st, 2009
  7. Look up Tarahumara Indians or their actual name Raramuri. They are capable of keeping pace with deers and even let them run from them until they collapse of exhaustion. And yes they still exist in the Copper Canyons of Mexico. They are amazing ultra distance runners and can run all day and do it again the next. We originally did evolve into long-distance runners but tools made it so that it was not a necessity.

    Weylyn wrote on September 17th, 2009
    • They do not run, they shuffle. And they do not do it alone.

      It is also done in loose fitting shoes and on uneven soft ground running around stony ground.

      And it is not a race. It is not timed.

      Nothing like the OCD on road running that is promoted as emulating their hunting techniques.

      If you do not understand how these two completely different running methods are in massive conflict with each other. I suggest you know nothing about the human body. And are deliberately missing out important points to fit your pre-existing bias.

      Eg……. These tribes do not need hip replacements.
      Your crowd does.

      If that does not get you thinking. Nothing will.

      Lloyd Shaw wrote on June 13th, 2016
  8. your an idiot

    Runner wrote on September 28th, 2009
  9. Hello: I found this blog while researching bipedalism in human species, mostly scientific papers. It’s helpful to read comments by actual runners instead of “guesses” by researchers. One thing I would say, is that just about everyone projects modern lifestyles on early humans, but this is backwards: how we use our bodies for locomotion is a result of bipedalism; there are no goals in evolution. Hunting is the result of exploiting our various abilities. Thanks…

    Bola wrote on November 9th, 2009
  10. Beeing an endurance runner myself, I think Mark is wrong.

    Mark writes that the Tarahumara’s exceptionall skills in endurance run is a culteral adaption and not genetic, because “no cars, no phones…”. But 10000 years ago, who had a phone? We were forced to run if we want to communicate or find food or a mate. If you were a better runner you had an advantage, the walker were left behind.

    We evolved on the african steppes and there you have to run to get a deer. Even if we were only scavangers we had to run when we saw a vulture, othervise they get the carrioin, not we.

    Johan wrote on November 22nd, 2009
  11. Speaking of selection, there is another explanation as to why strong, well developed gluteus maximus muscles are adaptive. They really look nice.

    Paulie wrote on January 3rd, 2010
    • LOL is that like the male ostrich feathers argument of “they really look nice to the ladies”? (hint: some male fowl that mate for life have bright shiny feathers so certain other animals will spot them first instead of the mother and offspring…)

      mm wrote on August 4th, 2010
  12. Glad to see you revived this post in the new year!
    I think, however, you are throwing the baby out with the bathwater by dismissing Lieberman’s (and McDougal’s) theories.
    In fact, as a couple posters above have commented, your points about human movement and evolution do not discredit the notion that we evolved as long distance trackers, but rather seem to reinforce it!
    I enjoy your writing and agree with many of your opinions, Mark, and I would invite you to look closer into what makes us distinctly, uniquely human. More and more evidence points to the fact we were, in fact, born to run.

    ian M/32/182/5'11" wrote on January 3rd, 2010
  13. Like with anything in life; dig deeper and I bet you’d find a gradient. The adaptations that improve Humans ability to run long (slow) distances and the possibility early Humans scavenged dead carcasses for meat aren’t mutually exclusive ideas. Running may be a bigger part of acquiring meat in one locale but in another maybe scavenging was the way to go (and how else would you avoid the large cats who also want to scavenge that nice carcass you’ve found?).

    SciFooter wrote on January 18th, 2010
  14. I’m not a runner, but I stumbled onto this discussion when researching bipedalism in humans. It seems clear that walking upright is the primary human attribute, but that running didn’t come until after the development of the Achilles tendon. So our early ancestors were SLOW. Bipedalism set off a chain of events; female pelvis had to reshape, which forced early birth, which provided the opportunity for the brain to grow and develop in the outside environment rather than solely in utero. The example often cited of Bushmen running down prey is outrageously inefficient! The carcass may be 20-30 miles away from the people who need fed; predators may steal it, and very little can be carried back to the home folks. Then the hunt starts all over again. And what if your “runner” gets killed. Tough luck. That’s why Bushmen are subsistence nomads and we are FAT.

    bo moore wrote on January 18th, 2010
    • Interesting points… the prey can restore all lost sweat/electrolytes (from blood) and perhaps have enough nutrients, protein to even restore burned off muscles and antioxidants. But little of the carcass could be carried over… or could they? What if long distance jogger-hunters hunted in packs and each one carried a part of the carcass? We are built to Lift Heavy Things afterall…

      But I think ambushing with poison arrows if far better, especially since we can set traps (i.e. lay food on the ground) and climb trees and hide…

      However, what did we do before we had bow/poison technology? Use throwing spears? Okay… and what did we do when we only had blubs and rocks? Scavenge and eat bugs exclisively? Maybe…….

      mm wrote on August 4th, 2010
  15. I would have to disagree. It seems to me from my personal experience, and from an evolutionary standpoint, that humans are natural long distance runners, and are definitely not sprinters.

    Jordan wrote on February 5th, 2010
    • I would have to disagree. It seems to me from my personal experience, and from an evolutionary standpoint, that humans are natural sprinters, and are definitely not long distance runners.

      Karell wrote on February 5th, 2010
      • I would have to disagree. It seems to me from my personal experience, and from an evolutionary standpoint, that humans are natural couch potatoes, and are definitely not runners.

        mm wrote on August 4th, 2010
        • Ha ha! :) Well played…

          Sarah wrote on August 21st, 2011
  16. I wonder if aside from the evolutionary standpoint you took in consideration the effects of running shoes and the western diet effects? Two books that you may want to read are born to run and in defense of food. I think this argument can’t stand until we remove the danger of our running shoes.

    Oscar wrote on February 22nd, 2010
  17. Regarding my previous comment, I now see that you have already reviewed the book and you actually support barefoot running.

    Oscar wrote on February 22nd, 2010
  18. Nice article, except for it’s lack of scientific evidence.

    As for the main point of the argument, that eating animals won’t supply a runner with enough glucose/glycogen stores, Lieberman does not say that persistence hunters exclusively used glycogen stores. In fact, his theory is to utilize fat to produce the energy to run, as in his opinion, it will take you the distance.

    Anthony wrote on April 1st, 2010
    • I think it really depends what people mean by distance-running;

      is it jogging level speed with just enough speed to spook prey into constantly sprinting/exhausting itself, and that can be maintained without too much exhaustion

      or is it marathoner-level running speed where you push your body to really run and burn sugar

      mm wrote on August 4th, 2010
  19. Hello: We have a problem here that I call Walt Disney evolution: An ape was not hanging in a tree 4 m.y.a. (bibedalism appears at least that early) when a thought balloon popped up over it’s head that said, “I think I’ll become bipedal so I can run long distances!” The ape did not
    drop out of the tree and become George of the Jungle.

    Our species did not “come up with” bipedalism which predates us by 3.5 m.y. at least: Ardipithecus and “Lucy” plus various extinct apes. We evolved from species that were already bipedal and living “on the ground.” Such a big fuss is made over ground dwelling, as if thousands of other species that are ground dwellers don’t exist.

    To argue BACKWARDS from the behavior of individual humans living today to explain why physical traits exist is crazy. We can train a chimp to fire a handgun; that does not mean that chimps evolved flexible fingers in order to shoot a gun!

    By the way: bipedalism first appeared in a reptile 290 m.y.a.; then in the branch of dinosaurs which led to birds. It is only our narcissism (and religious hangover) that says we are utterly unique and extraordinary.

    bo moore wrote on April 2nd, 2010
  20. The Bushmen do persistent hunt, and they do not farm. So, their goes that theory.

    lvleph wrote on April 24th, 2010
    • *there

      lvleph wrote on April 24th, 2010
  21. In my experience women are much more attracted to the body of a sprinter (well-defined)than that of long distance runner (mostly skinny), I wonder why they have that preference?

    Attraction aint a choice either, its hardwired.

    Marko wrote on May 25th, 2010
    • Are men also attracted to the same thing?

      mm wrote on August 4th, 2010
    • Marko, that’s because a sprinter is much more likely to be an athlete than a distance runner is. Most distance runners nowadays do nothing but run, eliminating efforts that build the body to do more than run. Women tend to be attracted to male bodies that appear capable of many different things. Look to cultures that run (ran) and you’ll see that they also did many other things. Look at Native Americans who ran. Look at African Bushmen. Look at the Tarahumara. They are athletes that are (were) able to do things most modern Americans would consider miraculous, and they looked darn good doing it. That’s the difference between an athlete and a runner, and I agree with you, the difference between attractive and not.

      Kennedy wrote on August 23rd, 2010
  22. It’s one thing to have an opinion, but you have no facts to back up anything you say. Dr. Lieberman and his colleagues may or may not be correct in their findings, but they do have solid evidence that does make logical sense. You may not believe that any human could evolve to run long distances, but then again you probably don’t want to either because then you won’t feel guilty when you’re sitting on the couch with a beer.

    Sam wrote on May 26th, 2010
    • Wow, you hit the nail right on the head! When not researching nor writing about primal diet and fitness, or reminescing on his much, much, much healthier days as a triathlete and long distance runner following conventional dieting wisdom and eating modern foods Mark does tend to sit around the tv with a beer in hand, hence the amazing beer belly you see him sporting in every one of his pics.

      mm wrote on August 4th, 2010
  23. I am a little late to this party just finishing the book “Born To Run” yesterday. It seems Mark and the science in the book agree on most everything, i.e. running shoes suck, man evolved for long-distance movement, protein initiated the brain size increase, etc.

    The only discussion point is how fast did primal man move long distances? The amount of effort is proportional to the aerobic capacity both inherent and due to physical conditioning. So, a fast walk to one person/tribe may be a jog to another. Don’t you think?

    Anyhow, I think there is much more to agree upon here than to argue other than the diet the Tarahumara eat. Is there any scientific evidence on the health and longevity of the Tarahumara that might shed light on the relative merits/problems of their reliance on corn?

    Mike wrote on June 3rd, 2010
  24. What if I don’t believe in evolution? Can I still eat Primal? :)

    Kale wrote on June 10th, 2010
  25. Pardon me for not reading through all of the comments, and I apologize if what I say is repetition. I understand the ER theory recognizes that early humans were scavengers. I also don’t think it requires humans to run marathon distances. We must realize that large “roadkill” carcases are obvious at long distances via observation of local scavenger birds. Also, it would be important to get to the site of a carcase quickly and not just at a mere walking pace; this way you have a better chance of beating the competition to the prize. I agree that it is ridiculous to expect early or modern humans to be able to run their prey to death, that is until I see some evidence otherwise.

    Jonathan wrote on June 17th, 2010
    • We do have some “evidence otherwise”

      mm wrote on August 4th, 2010
      • Yes, I recently heard on NPR science that some hunters in africa actually do run their prey to exhaustion. Thanks for the follow-up. I also realize that the guy who runs this site has a rather sizable conflict of interest.

        Jonathan wrote on August 5th, 2010
  26. To add to my earlier comments, it is also important to keep in mind that humans are genetically and morphologically very diverse and the pressures that could have forced us toward running relaxed around the time we invented agriculture.

    Jonathan wrote on June 17th, 2010
  27. I’ve been following this discussion for awhile, and I think there’s a conceptual problem: No organism evolves “to be” anything – there is no such goal in evolution. That idea is BACKWARDS. Organisms evolve due to conditions in specific environments, that’s why its important to know where hominids originated. Also, most of the changes we label as “human” ocurred BEFORE Homo sapiens, in Homo erectus,who would be difficult to distinguish from many modern humans. Brain size went from 400 cc (apes like “Lucy”) to 900 cc in H. erectus. The rapid increase is likely due to a diet high in fatty acids and concentrated calories: bone marrow and brains being the prime source. These are essential to producing and maintaining a large brain, so this diet would have preceded brain size increase. This includes animal carcasses AND other hominids: H. erectus and later, Homo sapiens may have cannibalized our way to big brain domination. Speedier bipedal locomotion would have favored the predatory human; limited bipedal abilities would have become a deficit.
    Short bursts of speed may have produced an edge for scavengers and hunters, with long distance running being an adaptation to specific environments, which we see in humans today.

    When humans began adapting to a wider variety of environments by using animal transport (horses, camels, etc.) and then by invention (boats, chariots, trains, planes etc.) these quickly outpaced evolutionary change. Evolution is slow, technology is immediate.

    bomoore wrote on June 18th, 2010
  28. Humans still have a somewhat hard time adapting to walking on two feet (more prone to back pain, knee injuries). Wouldn’t it make sense to say we evolved to hunt while crawling? :p

    mm wrote on August 4th, 2010
  29. We keep confusing “lifestyle” for some goal of evolution! Lifestyle is adaptation: people who work in offices, sitting most of the time, who don’t get exercise, ie sedentary Americans, have back problems. All our gizmos and medical intervention are attempts to adapt to unhealthy environments of our own creation. This poes for pregnancy / birth problems too: healthy women with well-developed bone and muscle systems don’t have childbirth problems. We’ve developed a multi-billion dollar industry around childbirth, which is NOT inherently dangerous or difficult in humans. All this intervention is an attempt at adapting ourselves to unhealthy environments that we have created! American women are unhealthy, and therefore we see high rates of preemies, birth defects, etc. This is why, despite the fabulous sums we spend on healthcare, the US ranks low on medical outcomes.

    bo moore wrote on August 7th, 2010
  30. Wasn’t even close. Tyson won it going away!

    Dottie Menedez wrote on August 9th, 2010
  31. Dear Author,

    You either contradict yourself or show your complete ingnorance of endurance running/distance athleticism. Running very long distances is ALL ABOUT staying in the fat burning zone. Talk to a triathlete or ultra runner. They keep heart rates low and energy on a nearly never ending tap.

    “If men did most of the hunting, how is it that women are better suited to ultra running than men ”
    Simple, hunting was not a solitary man practise, or even a men’s only practice. Moving to the food, whether persistence hunting it or moving to the “roadkill” to scavenge involved bringing the whole family. And if you want to get there before other scavengers, you had better trot along and a good clip, not simply walk and hope it’s there when you get there.

    “I say we learned to run marathons when we had the luxury of unlimited carbohydrates.”
    Then you have no idea what you are talking about, and this entire response will fall on deaf ears. You need to understand that long distance events are not about carbs. Until then you will always sound like you don’t know what you’re talking about.

    As to your paragraph on the squat, you show your lack of understanding of basic anthropology and how the body moves from one place to another. Have you ever seen monkeys, apes, and other primates resting? What pose to they rest in? Oh yeah, it’s the squat. And somehow they don’t have massive glutes. Glutes are not used in resting, barely needed in rising from a crouch, not used much in walking, and only truly necessary for running.

    You really need to keep in mind that endurance running is the one and only physical activity that we are better at than all other land animals. We are terrible sprinters. Most every predator and prey animal can out sprint us.

    If our bodies only ever needed to walk, scramble, and sprint as you suggest, homo sapiens would never have come to dominate the planet and other stronger, faster, and smarter bipeds would run the wolrd.

    Kennedy wrote on August 23rd, 2010
    • Ok, so can YOU run a sub 3:00 hr marathon relying only on fats? I’m sure I can walk 26.2 miles on fats, but I can’t run it faster than 8min/mile pace without tapping into my glycogen stores.

      Daniel wrote on August 27th, 2010
  32. Boy – this discussion gets really silly!
    If women only mated with “beautiful” men, then ALL men today would look like T.O. or Muhammed Ali! Sickly-looking NERDS (science guys) would not exist, nor would advanced technology. At the top of the wealth-status ladder we see ugly old rich guys parading around young fertile wives: it’s STATUS women go for in the long run – pun intended.

    As for butt muscles – these are necessary to maintain a bipedal stance -standing or walking is a controlled fall, and the glutes interrupt that fall so that weight can shift to the opposite leg.

    Fatty acids are vital to fueling the brain; about 50% of calories are used to operate the brain. It’s obvious that running as the means of making a living was left in the dust by tool-making and other inventive technology.

    Pretty boys? Give me a man with brains!

    bomoore wrote on August 26th, 2010
    • What’s silly is trying to explain biology, anthropology, biomechanics, and kinesiology to people too close-minded to even listen, let alone consider a point of view.

      OK, I guess I’m feeling silly, I’ll give you the short version. Your hot-chick-wants-a-ruch-guy example is irrelevant to evolution. We have created a world where evolutionary forces have almost no effect on our lives. Way back when, the instinct was to survive long enough to reproduce. Now it’s to find a source of wealth to fuel our desire for self comfort. Think about it, when is the last time you worried about living to teh end of the week. I’d say odds are good you were more concerned with how to spend your money this weekend.

      As for glutes, as I already explained, yes, they are needed for standing and walking, but nowhere near the size that we have them. Look at other primates that are fully able to stand and walk and squat. They have no rump. They have tiny little glutes that are enough to get around. They do not have massive butts. We do. There is no reason for them other than to jog.

      As for your third paragraph, that wasn’t always teh case. We are talking about evolution, remember? In order to find those calories and high quality fats and proteins, we needed a change in food sources. We got that food source by running to it/running it down. We became tool users because we ran.

      Kennedy wrote on August 27th, 2010
      • Where to start? I’m sorry, but the mistakes in your thinking are too numerous to address; magical thinking is the basis for your contentions. (False cause and effect) It’s a HUGE problem among Americans, even those who are educated.

        “WE became tool users BECAUSE WE RAN” This ludicrous statement alone demonstrates that you have no grasp (pun intended) of animal evolution.

        As for glutes: please check out the anatomy of BIPEDAL DINOSAURS.

        bomoore wrote on August 28th, 2010
  33. Statused males are the exception; so If male status is paramount, how are there so many couples?

    The glutes can be used and are important for walking. For example, when the right foot is forward with respect to the pelvis, and planted, then begin to contract the right buttock. Esther Gokhale calls this Glidewalking.

    I’m not sure that the glutes can be used for running, but they may be used for jogging if you build your stride around glute contraction. I’ve experimented a little and thought it might have some potential. And I’ve tried this while sprinting, but am unsure about the potential for buttock use here. The required contraction rate seems too high and the landed foot seems too far forward for the short time it is still planted. Gokhale is supposed to return to Africa and do more movement observations, this time of native’s running.

    Glutes are a lot smaller than our fat-padded rear ends suggest. A body builder with virtually no body fat has surprisingly small buttocks. So, while we do have “big butts”, the perception of size is due to thick fat, not active muscle.

    primalwalker wrote on August 27th, 2010
    • Glutes CAN BE USED FOR…..

      Glutes are NECESSARY for bipedalism. Human anatomy today is the RESULT of becoming bipedal. Please read an anatomy text and go back to basics with how evolution works. This isn’t guesswork or opinion: it’s physics, chemistry, mechanics, anthropology, paleontology, geology.

      Cheez Whiz!

      bomoore wrote on August 28th, 2010
  34. Of course, the two smaller gluteus muscles help keep the body upright during walking. However, in the developed countries, the gluteus maximus muscle is not utilized significantly to propel the pelvis (and body) forward after the forward foot is planted. We tend to use only the hip flexors and quads to swing the leg forward and then catch ourselves with some impact and joint stress. Glide (third world) walking uses the gluteus maximus, psoas, and calf muscles for a smoother stride. The crucial feature is gradual to full contraction of the gluteus maximus at the right time. Try it and see the difference!

    primalwalker wrote on August 30th, 2010
  35. Tch, tch, tch. Darwin would be dissapoint.

    Born to Run wrote on October 15th, 2010
  36. How can you disagree? For one i see fat dudes running marathons all the time. Hell I watched a really really chubby guy win a 12k race just last weekend in the town im living. No way is distance jogging the ultimate fit mans sport. Referring to Mark’s post: best quote, “[…]but to think that natural selection redesigned our simian shapes to run the Boston Marathon is, in my opinion, ludicrous.
    Personally, I find marathons laughable, as well. Why not just walk that distance over a longer time??

    Jamey Delta wrote on November 9th, 2010
    • will obviously everyone else was out of shape also. In track or crosscountry in my school there are no chubby kids, everyone is lean and fast. Just to show off a bit I got first a few times in track last year and probly will this year also for distances 400m – 1600m. In the story this is the part that amazed me “early humans would run an animal to death by chasing it for for 5 or 10 miles until it died of heat stroke.” man that sounds amazing I think ill try it some time gonna go find me a gazzel or something and chase it down to death lol

      Christian wrote on December 8th, 2010

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

© 2016 Mark's Daily Apple

Subscribe to the Newsletter and Get a Free Copy
of Mark Sisson's Fitness eBook and more!