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NY Times article on evolutionary brain growth and excercise

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  • NY Times article on evolutionary brain growth and excercise

    Exercise and the Ever-Smarter Human Brain -

    I would like to see Mark do a post on this. This looks like it was an really interesting study, but I'm not sure this article is in depth enough. Based on this review though, it would seem this study is suggesting that "over cardio" is more "primal" than sprinting.

  • #2
    If I understand the process of natural selection correctly, what they are proposing in that article is complete nonsense. Natural selection chooses the ones that have the most suitable traits for survival, but it doesn't force a change. In the case of our closest ancestors and cousins that have existed over the last million years or so, that would imply that the smartest ones survived while the others diet off.

    A good example of that is what is believed to have caused neanderthal, our cousins, to go extinct. We were both in europe about the same time roughly 30,000 years ago. Neanderthal required more calories for survival than modern humans and we had better hunting tools. So, theoretically we would have gotten all the available game while the neanderthal would starve. Who knows, maybe we killed them off.

    Anyways, let me give a more thorough explanation as to how natural selection works and why what the article is suggesting is nonsense. Natural selection doesn't cause the changes to happen. As an example, if I lift weights I get stronger, but that doesn't mean that my children will be. Natural selection doesn't work that way.

    So, if a greater endurance and higher intelligence was better for survival, then natural selection would have chosen such individuals over time, which would be why we ended up being what we are now. However, even if physical activity did cause people to be smarter, that doesn't mean that it would make their children smarter; that's the part I'm saying is nonsense.

    As for the whole idea on endurance activities, I actually do believe it. But I'd ask a hunter their opinion, because they would know. However, if you think about all the different things we do as humans, it really does make sense. We can work, farm, build houses, and so on. If we couldn't do all of those things, we wouldn't be able to survive all of the things we have such as cold climates, living in desserts, and the list goes on. Intelligence and endurance are both great assets we have as a species.

    Also, if you think about it, most of the real endurance activities that we have to do in ordinary life are either very easy such as walking or they envolve at least a slight about of resistance such as what you would encounter when doing house work or what ever. The activities rarely require us to run, but to walk instead. We can sprint if necessary, but this is rarely the case.

    When we compare such activities to endurance sports such as running or cycling, you can really see the difference. Competitive sports require one to push themselves to the max. And competitive sports require one to do that without the added resistance. In real every day life, even a slave would never have to work that hard. Instead, they'd be walking instead of running so that they could last all day.

    I guess my point about the endurance stuff is, we really are meant to go all day long, and this is obviously why we have survived through a lot of the things that we did. But such real life endurance can't be comparable to marathon type endurance sports. I can't think of anything that anyone would ever have to do similar to that that would be required for survival. And even if they did, it would still be the smarter ones that would survive in the end, the people who would be smart enough to figure out a way that they could survive without having to work as hard.


    • #3
      This could be an interesting discussion. I remember watching a documentary about how humans outsmarted and out endured their prey. I was going to bring this up myself. I can imagine scenarios where in the open plains where Grok would need to do some serious trucking for a few hours a day. Chasing down prey could have been part of that.

      I have definitely benefited from added moe strength training to my routine. I'm trying to relate that to Grok -- was he wrestling down his prey? Unlikely, but I can imagine survival of the fittest involved fighting between Paleo individuals or groups.

      but I've been doing > 10 hours/week of road biking. Some of that is bike riding is social, but deep down I have this feeling that this kind of exercise is beneficial to my health. At a minimum it is a great way of burning off fat. Yesterday, I did a few hours with some moderate hill climbing with nothing in the morning other than a Bulletproof coffee. I felt great the whole way and didn't even get a sense of hunger.
      Last edited by miata; 12-30-2012, 12:11 AM.


      • #4
        I saw this article in the print edition of the NYT today. My gal pointed it out & challenged me on the long endurance vs the sprinting I do.
        The problem I have with the endurance theory is exactly what animal were we running down way back then? What mammal can or could we ever catch that way? Seems to me it was organized hunting, that included mostly sitting & waiting for prey as we do today, not some sort of marathon thing were we chased our dinner all day. Sprinting would likely be the main way to escape from becoming dinner not catching dinner. All this certainly took a lot of moving around & lots of work