The Characteristics of Hunter-Gatherer Fitness

Dr. Loren Cordain and a few MD colleagues have recently published a paper (PDF) called “Organic Fitness: Physical Activity Consistent with Our Hunter-Gatherer Heritage.” It makes for a great companion piece to Primal Blueprint Fitness, and it encapsulates quite nicely the breadth of research into the physical activities of our hunter-gatherer ancestors. Read the whole thing. There’s probably nothing really new to you guys already well-versed in this stuff, but it’s good having it all in one space, and it’s good having it from more sources (not just me). If someone ever asks you why you go barefoot, avoid weight machines, squat below parallel (don’t you know it’s bad for your knees!?!), go on hikes for fun without sunscreen, and hate treadmills, you can send along a nice, neat package including the PBF eBook and the Cordain paper. This isn’t a “nyah, nyah, proven right again!” type thing (well, kinda). This is a “buttressing the incoming unavoidable inexorable impossible-to-ignore flood of evidence in favor of listening to evolution in matters of health and fitness” type thing. The times they are a changin’, eh?

Anyway, let’s get to the meaty bits of the paper – to what they call the “fundamental elements of ‘organic exercise,’ which may serve as a template from which to design a fitness strategy for adults living in today’s modern industrialized culture.” I’ve bolded and italicized their words (from a section of which the title of this article is derived) and followed up with my commentary:

1. A large amount background daily, light-to-moderate activity such as walking was required. Although the distances covered would have varied widely according to hunting and foraging routines, cultures, weather, seasons, ages, etc., most estimates indicate that the average daily distances covered were in the range of 6 to 16 km.

Or in other words, Move Frequently at a Slow Pace. Note that “6 to 16 km” per day is a fairly big range, and it’s the ideal – if you’re trying to perfectly emulate hunter-gatherer activity. This is neither necessarily optimum nor possible for most people. Now, If I could, I’d go on a two-hour leisurely paced hike through nature every single day, but I can’t, and so I don’t. I also don’t fret about it. If you get three to five hours (or more) of slow moving walking or hiking each week, you’re doing things right.

2. Hard days were typically followed by an easier day, but every day a variety of physical activities had to be accomplished just to provide for the basic human needs. The hunter-gatherers’ daily energy expenditures for physical activity typically were at least 800 to 1200 kcal or about 3 to 5 times that of modern sedentary individuals.

Vary your workouts and get plenty of rest, but stay active every day. Be a generalist, unless profession or dearly held extracurricular activities require specialization. That is, if you’re a high-level athlete or just an extremely passionate one, focus on your sport. Exercise should breed pleasure, after all. Hunter-gatherers were generalists by necessity; they had to be all-around physically capable, so it’s probably an optimal path – health-wise – for us, their descendants, but not if it negatively affects your enjoyment of life.

3. Individuals walked or ran on natural surfaces, such as grass and dirt, and often on uneven ground; our ancient ancestors almost never walked or ran on solid flat rock. The combination of softer natural walking/running surfaces and less biomechanically restrictive shoes is a more evolutionarily congruent strategy to reduce impact loading of the joints.

I’m in agreement with this – ditch the shoes altogether or opt for alternatives that promote natural locomotion – but  “natural surfaces” are probably less important for healthy moving in the grand scheme of things. What’s important is how we land and use our joints and muscles to absorb the impact. If you’re walking or running in species appropriate footwear that promote a healthy footfall, you will be more likely to handle the impact of that footfall whether you’re on concrete, a hardwood floor, or a dirt path. I will say that walking or running on uneven ground strewn both with large obstacles that you have to avoid or climb over (rocks, sticks, branches) and with small objects that you perceive underfoot and must subconsciously react to (pebbles, gravel, sharp stickers) is ideal, but if you live in a big city without regular access to the outdoors, what are you gonna do? Nothing? Pick the appropriate footwear (or lack thereof) and you’ll be most of the way there.

4. Life in the wild often called for intermittent bursts of moderate-to-high level intensity exercise with intervening periods of rest and recovery. High-intensity interval training sessions should be performed once or twice per week.

As I often say, make your long, easy workouts longer and easier, and make your short, intense workouts even shorter and more intense. Intensity is key for the best results in fitness, but you’ve gotta rest. Apply a stressful stimulus, allow your body to respond and adapt to that stimulus. It’s extremely simple and intuitive, yet so many get it so wrong. Add sprinting to your weekly routine if you haven’t already. The PBF protocol calls for one dedicated sprint day each week, with WOWs rounding out the weekly HIIT.

5. Cross-training is important and should include exercises focusing on strength (resistive), endurance (aerobic), and flexibility (stretching). Rotation among multiple different forms of exercise develops resilience and multifaceted fitness and reduces the likelihood of overuse injury, boredom, and emotional burnout.

Again, the generalist approach. Competency across a broad range of movement patterns, activity types, and energy pathways. Joints should move freely and smoothly, lean mass should be visible and capable, and you shouldn’t get winded ascending a flight of stairs or going for a walk. These things – joint mobility and flexibility, basic physical strength, and adequate aerobic endurance – are valuable and useful to all people, everywhere, regardless of interest in formal exercise or sport.

6. Regular sessions of weight training and other strength-building exercises are essential for optimizing health and fitness. These need to be performed at least 2 or 3 times per week, for at least 20 to 30 minutes per session.

Strength training is the foundation. It helps you build and maintain a powerful, stable base of operations (your body) from which to conduct daily business. I would add that these weight training sessions must be composed of compound, full-body movements, rather than isolation exercises, because, well, compound multijoint movements are simply how we move around in the world. If you’re an advanced trainee with a strong foundation built by years of compound exercises, go ahead and hit the curls and tricep kickbacks if you like, but if you’re trying to establish or enhance your actual strength, stick with compound movements. Bodyweight is sufficient for just about everyone, but barbells, kettlebells, and other weighted implements are awesome tools, too. The PBF protocol calls for 2 LHT (Lift Heavy Things) days each week.

7. In general, hunter-gatherers were lean, and probably almost never obese, which reduced trauma to their joints.

Yep. (Have you ever seen Grok?) Furthermore, the obese are usually inactive, and activity – especially weight-bearing activity – increases the strength and thickness of connective tissue. So it’s a double whammy. Obesity increases wear and tear on joints that are already weakened by inactivity.

8. Virtually all of the exercise was done outdoors in the natural world. Outdoor activities help maintain ultraviolet-stimulated vitamin D synthesis, improve mood, and facilitate adherence to a regular exercise program.

This is a huge aspect of fitness (and health) that goes relatively unheeded. While you can still get an extremely effective workout in a cloistered gym, outdoor workouts provide added benefits. This isn’t rocket science. I think most people understand this intuitively. Which would you prefer: a 45 minute treadmill run in a gray room with artificial light, or a game of Ultimate Frisbee in a park on a sunny day? Or how about the choice between yoga in a studio and yoga on a cliff overlooking the ocean? Time spent in nature is undeniably good for our psychological and physiological well-being. I still hit up the gym for certain routines and for the camaraderie, but more and more I put an emphasis on getting back to nature – to get my daily dose of rays and to recharge in a more natural environment.

9. Much of the physical activity was done in context of a social setting (small bands of individuals who were hunting or foraging were working together on various chores). There is substantial evidence that some of the psychological benefits of formal exercise training programs are derived from the social bonding and other unique aspects of the group exercise sessions. The benefits of group exercise can be conferred by structured programs and/or informal exercise sessions involving at least 2 individuals.

Look at the popularity, success, and effectiveness of something like CrossFit. People are willing and able to subject their bodies to immense amounts of pain and suffering in the presence of others undergoing a similar experience. We are social animals who derive great satisfaction from being with likeminded individuals. Empathy is a powerful thing, and it’s there for a reason. We’re able to transfer the suffering, to spread it out across the group and make the pain a bit more bearable. You don’t have to take a spin class or go for a Zumba session or even do CrossFit, necessarily, to get the benefits of mixing social bonding with fitness. Simply adding a single workout partner will make things easier and help you stick to the regimen. Or, you could play sports, either in pickup game form or by joining a formal league.

10. Genetic evidence suggests that humans and dogs have been coevolving together for as long as 135 000 years. The mutual advantages conferred by this co-evolutionary process have been theorized to be related to cooperative hunting between domesticated wolves and our ancient hominin ancestors. Thus, both the dog and the human genomes may be specifically adapted to outdoor exercise involving cooperation between these 2 species. Indeed, studies indicate that dog ownership can facilitate adherence to an exercise program, improve fitness, and reduce excess weight among individuals.

I get my best workouts (most enjoyable, certainly) with my yellow lab, Buddha. He exudes confidence and serenity almost to the point of enlightenment, and I’m convinced that my appreciation of my dog isn’t just learned. These furry guys have been living, sleeping, working, hunting, and bonding with us humans for tens of thousands of years. It’s entirely feasible that genetic advantages to having a dog (for both parties involved) have arisen and persist today. I’ve actually written about what we can learn from and how to exercise with dogs. Read it and then get outdoors for some fractal fun.

11. Dancing was often performed as a part of rituals and celebrations, and is an ideal form of exercise that improves fitness and reduces stress.

As long as we’ve been drumming our hands, fingers, and sticks against objects to form rudimentary rhythmic patterns (tens of thousands, perhaps millions of years), we’ve been moving our bodies along with them. In other words, dance is unabashedly, absolutely Primal. I put dance in the play category, in that it’s that type of exercise that you do for the heck of it, because it’s fun (or you’re trying to procure a mate) and don’t realize you’re actually getting an amazing mental and physical workout. So dance, and don’t worry about looking ridiculous. You’re just acknowledging the presence of aural rhythms in the air with your body. It’s unnatural not to do so.

12. Sexual activity has always been an important aspect of human physical and social interaction. A frequency of sexual activity of  1 or 2 times per week correlates with multiple health benefits.

Some would say that this is the most Primal activity of them all. I won’t go too deeply into this one, not for prudishness, but because I’m planning a dedicated post on the topic in the near future. Stay tuned for that one. It will, sadly and by necessity, be relatively SFW.

13. Ample time for rest, relaxation, and sleep was generally available to ensure complete recovery after strenuous exertion.

Fitting that this is the last one, because it’s what everyone always forgets about (if they ever knew it at all) or ignores. Exercise is utterly pointless and even counterproductive without proper rest, relaxation, and sleep. You need to eat well and eat enough, let your muscles rest and regrow, and have enough downtime to reap the benefits of exercise. I mean, you’re doing this to increase the quality of life, right? You want to be strong and able to run fast and far so that life is easier and you don’t have to worry about your body, right? Get your rest and sleep, then. It’s the only way forward.

Thoughts? Concerns? Did Cordain and company miss anything? Have I? What else can we learn from the physical activities of our ancestors?

TAGS:  Grok

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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80 thoughts on “The Characteristics of Hunter-Gatherer Fitness”

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  1. Excellent as usual.

    There are quite a tribe of us looking forward to the sexy post 🙂 me thinks!

  2. “Intellectual expression”.. whether it was cave paintings or creating a better tool for hunting; We could not have evolved to what we are without this crucial activity, that I think is about mental fitness which closely relates to physical fitness.. in fact, they cannot be mutually exclusive.

    1. The next book on my pile for reading is ‘how the body shapes the way we think – a new view of intelligence’ Pfeifer and Bongard covers very much this subject.

  3. Love the link and post. Great information. Related to to the future sex post, you should also delve into hormonal birth control pills/ birth control in general. I’ll venture to say Grok didn’t have Yaz or Trojans hangin’ around 🙂

    1. I’m all for being primal but in our world Trojans are quite necessary. The birth control on the other hand is probably not good for you.

      1. No reason to get ridiculous about birth control. Everyone, whether you use it or not, benefits from it.

        And actually, there’s evidence to suggest that it might help mimic patterns of pregnancy in Grok’s time. You can take the pill packs back-to-back to prevent a period, much like being pregnant would prevent periods for nine months. Women these days have far fewer pregnancies, which means they have a lot more periods, which means they are more susceptible to cancers of the ovaries and uterus, not to mention the side effects of hormones being in constant flux.

        I’ve only benefited from b.c. Please don’t condemn women to a life chained to uncontrollable fertility because of some misguided sense of what Grok did or did not do.

        1. I’m definitely with you on this one Buttercup. I do not take the pill, simply as a matter of choice, but my life as a consequence is exactly as you describe – a hormonal roller coaster. I would not wish it on anyone else.

        2. I agree that BC has helped alot in this day and age but I would not say fertility is uncontrollable. With a little education and self restraint women do not have to be on BC. My wife and I track her cycles and plan accordingly, we are on our 2nd year of this and have had no suprises.

        3. The contraceptive pill is wonderful.

          Apart from the masses of oestrogen in the water supply.

          The increased risk of stroke.

          And cancer.

        1. Can’t agree more!!!!! It’s been very liberating since my husband got snipped.

          And as for oral contraceptives, it might not go back to Grok’s day, but the ancients had a trick or two with that. The ancient Greeks wiped out a plant that was taken as an oral contraceptive. There are pictures of the plant, but the plant itself is extinct. No way to test just what the plant had in it, but interestingly, it was in the Umbelliferae family, and at least 30-years back, some women in the Appalachian mountains were reported to use Queen Anne’s Lace seeds as an oral contraceptive, with success.

          These aren’t as standardized of doses as modern factory produces, so not as guaranteed to work as the modern Pill, but I think various plants may have played a roll in the wider spacing of births in more primal populations. I certainly, even with on demand breastfeeding, would’ve had kids closer than 3.5 years without some form of birth control.

    1. I try to exercise like this – it’s a hell of a lot better, and more fun then jogging on the treadmill for an hour. I just try to find things I think are fun, like swimming, and make a plan to do them several times per week. When I add in some kettlebell training and some sprints I seem to get pretty good results.

  4. “People are willing and able to subject their bodies to immense amounts of pain and suffering in the presence of others undergoing a similar experience. ”

    That sounds more like something members of a cultish religion might be interested in. I’m not sure that just because likeminded individuals are willing to jump off a cliff, that it must be a good idea to join in the action. I mean, there are lots of folks who subject their bodies to immense amounts of pain and suffering by eating cake at a birthday party because everyone else does it … well, I suppose some can claim that as their 20%.

    The benfits of group exercise, depends on several factors — some of which may make group exercise not so beneficial for some.

  5. A really strong caveat to the whole “natural surfaces” thing is to be careful of uneven surfaces when you first start transitioning to barefoot or minimal footwear. I started running in huaraches on a trail in my area and ended up with a crush injury in my forefoot because I was used to more padding. Later, I found out that most barefooters recommend beginning barefooting by running on smooth, flat surfaces like concrete or asphalt. If it feels “jarring” to run on such surfaces, your gait is probably wrong.

        1. All I could think of for “SFW” was Single Female White, and even though I’m new here, that didn’t seem quite right! 🙂

  6. Just learning to rest properly between workouts and am also new to resistance training. Is a day off enough? If I’m still sore (but not incapacitated) after a couple of days, can I lift again?

    1. Wildshan, if you do it right, one day is NOT enough rest between resistance workouts. I sometimes take three or four days between mine.

      1. Ok – glad to hear this. I read that PBF recommends 2 days of LHT per week, plus 1 Sprint Day. I do better with one sprint day every 10 days, and 1-2 lifting days per week. For several weeks I did 3+ hours of slow movement, 2 LHT, and 1 Sprint day… I was wearing down and stuck on a plateau to boot. Easing off allowed me to do some IFing, lower my carbs into ketosis, and break through that month-long sticking point = 3 pounds down over a weekend.

        Just goes to show that a person has to take the guidelines and experiment until they find their own personal prescription. 🙂

    2. A grip strength test can also be a good indicator of recovery. If your body hasn’t recovered (mainly your nervous system), your grip strength will suffer.

  7. Wow — some of these are almost word for word in alignment with your recommendations. Times certainly are changing.

  8. I would hate to have to do without Hammerstrength machines, they are basically a lever with the weight on one end and handles on the other, and you either pull or push on the handles.

    Nothing new and different about the lever:

    The earliest remaining writings regarding levers date from the 3rd century BC and were provided by Archimedes. “Give me a place to stand, and I shall move the earth with a lever”[note 1] is a remark of Archimedes who formally stated the correct mathematical principle of levers (quoted by Pappus of Alexandria).[1]

    It is assumed that in ancient Egypt, constructors used the lever to move and uplift obelisks weighting more than 100 tons [2].

    So people were using levers to lift big weights thousands of years ago.

    The stack and cable machines are a different story, those are good for people who want to make believe they are exercising without actually exercising.

    1. On a random note, Archimedes was referring to a philisophical belief through mathematical formula, not a lever in the physical sense. He determined that if he were to use a leverage distance of 6.5 billion light years, a leverage point of 1 cm from the earth and his 100kg mass, he could move the earth half the distance of a proton. This would be counteracted by inertia and roll back on itself. Nobody can lever the earth!

      Moral of the story? Less levers, more freeweights 🙂

  9. “This is a “buttressing the incoming unavoidable inexorable impossible-to-ignore flood of evidence in favor of listening to evolution in matters of health and fitness” type thing. The times they are a changin’, eh?”

    Haha, Mark, you always have good jokes.

    About your point number three.. Do people that wear the “appropriate footwear”, such as Vibram FiveFingers, only wear them due to ‘modern disturbances’ such as pavement, glass, etc, and also so as not to attract as much attention as going barefoot, as well as to be allowed to enter stores? Besides these reasons, I cannot imagine why one would be interested in wearing the shoes in a natural setting, such as the woods.

  10. #10 is totally spot on. My favorite play is a serious game of fetch with my dog Joxer the Mighty. Fetch champion of the universe. At the end we are both worn out, bonded and happy!

    1. Amen!

      My dog can’t fetch worth a darn but he loves to chase and be chased. We take turns chasing each other! Talk about a good sprint workout and a happy dog!

  11. “This is a “buttressing the incoming unavoidable inexorable impossible-to-ignore flood of evidence in favor of listening to evolution in matters of health and fitness” type thing. The times they are a changin’, eh?”
    Haha, Mark, you always have the best jokes.

    About your point number three.. Do people that wear the “appropriate footwear”, such as Vibram FiveFingers, only wear them due to ‘modern disturbances’ such as pavement, glass, etc, and also so as not to attract as much attention as going barefoot, as well as to be allowed to enter stores? Besides these reasons, I cannot imagine why one would be interested in wearing the shoes in a natural setting, such as the woods.

  12. hi! okay i’ll admit i am a chronic overexerciser. although i love resistance training for how it makes me look, i am addicted to cardio for how it makes me feel (high). i am underweight and experiencing some other negative health effects of all the cardio. i am desperate to get into a more reasonable, sustainable, and healthy pattern of exercise – so this was great.
    my only question is (and mostly because i have lost touch with any sense of normalcy) – how much “rest” are you talking about? i.e. how many hours a day do you sit?

    1. Don’t sit, unless you really need to.
      “Rest” = walk, hike, easy bike ride. Do this every day, as much as you want.
      Call your hard-core cardio “play” and limit it to 2x/wk. Mix in some sprint-level stuff.
      Lift all the heavy you want, no more than 3x/wk.
      Get enough sleep.

      1. thank you for your reply . . . but are you serious?? i am a college student and need to sit through a couple lectures a day, i also need to spend some time sitting to read, study, and write reports. i also sit to eat most of my meals.
        is that really all bad? do you really never sit to eat, read a book, newspaper, or a blogs – or sit to rock a baby to sleep?? and what about people who have jobs that dont allow them to hike or bike all day? how can we modify your advice to work with a modern day society?

  13. I’m so glad dancing got a mention. As a recreational dancer, I can attest to the workout it provides.

    While not strictly Primal, even doing ‘Just Dance’ on the Wii will get the heart and lungs going if you’re shy.

  14. It’s a pity all I can do with my dog is walk now, she just hasn’t the energy for it, but then she is over 13 now xD Shoulda seen her just a couple of years ago, she could lap a field twice before I could get my phone out of my pocket xD

  15. Just ordered a hoppy ball for myself to bounce around with my 3yr old. Why should she get to have all the fun?

    Also, does my 27lb 11month old count as my “lift heavy things”? If so, I get to do this all day, every day… 😛

    1. Definitely. I have never been in such good shape as when I had twin babies that I pushed up mighty hills in a jogger and who constantly cried ‘Uppie!’ I’d love to get those biceps back.

      1. Yep! I have a two-year-old who I still carry in a hiking backpack when we hike in mountain lion areas. Whenever I stop for a breather he cries, “Go, Mom, go!” Now THAT is motivation! =)

      2. Another twin momma out there! As a twin daddy told me shortly after the babies were born, “Twin moms have a special place reserved in heaven for them.” 🙂

        I have to hand it to you, if you had the energy to push twins up a hill you get my salute. We’re now 15 months into the twin thing, and I am just now starting to feel like a normal person again. My energy is not vibrant, but I’m not collapsing into bed every time the twins go down for a nap anymore. This is progress.

        That being said, I’m totally new to this paleo thing, although we’ve been eating according to the Weston A. Price Foundation principles for a few years, and I suspect that once I drop the grains and legumes, as well as get a regular workout in, that my energy will return.

        I’m presently 30 lbs up from my pre-twin weight. I’m 35 lbs from my bikini weight (if I dare get into one again with the stretch marks/battle scars that remain from carrying twins to term who were both born at a great weight). I am really looking for something that fulfills my hunger, and keeps me going. The twins are presently wearing me out, and I’d like to be able to keep up with them better than I am now.

        Plus, if grains aren’t good for us, imagine what they do to toddlers who are so vulnerable to mood swings based on blood sugar level. Moreover, grains cannot be good for a toddler’s gut flora, which is central to our immunity and mood.

  16. I walk with my dog, and I think I need to start “hunting” again, ( I used to go walking when I lived in middle of nowhere with my gun more for protection from skunk or rattler etc but also for rabbits too-stew! ). I actually dance a lot and with my daughters especially. We do bellydancing which is a great low impact dance, that really works your core, there have been times muscles have hurt I didn’t even know I had! lol and when weather is nice we dance outside. Really we only need drums but nice to have iPods! Great time for bonding with my kids and friends. And we are always dancing barefoot!
    Nice to know my husbands work is probably providing the exercise he needs but perhaps needs more downtime to recover. he gained weight despite the exercise but now that we are on a primal diet I think that will change.

  17. excellent article. Totally agree about the domesticated dog advantage. Love taking my pups up in the wilderness trails for some walking, sprints, and chases on the uneven terrain.

    And as I’ve re-applied myself to drumming recently, I have my drums set up in the garage right next to my workout space. Part of my fitness ‘warm up’ is doing some jazz drumming, a great style to loosen up and get the limbs and the whole body into some rhythmic flows. Cadences, bursts, brain-motion coordination, good stuff for the generalist.

  18. Great post as usual…2 things hit me today…I ditched corporate restaurant management not quite 2 yrs ago, and I now wait tables at a restaurant run by an old colleague. I literally work 30 hrs a week less, make the same, (if not sometimes more) money, and log at least 4 to 10 miles a day (I work double shifts) “gathering” for others. (according to co workers pedometers). Ha!

    On a sad note, my 11 yr old English Bulldog, Koko, Passed away peacefully during her afternoon nap yesterday..RIP Koko baby, keep chasing those squirrels in doggie Heaven!!

  19. Haha, and Joe, my youngest daughter’s name, is actually, Cadence.

  20. reading this sometimes I get the urge to go live in the woods 🙂 it sounds fun and healthy, but probably not so much fun when you get to the woods and must survive without modern tools and technology 🙂

    1. I went on a month-long group hiking trip through the woods once without using any electricity except for lghts. We even started our camp/cooking fires with flint and steel, except for a week spent in a cabin because most of us got sick and needed some recovery time. During that trip I had a lot of fun and experienced a lot of misery, often alternating between the two many times a day. Although I enjoyed being immersed in nature I missed technology and modern comforts. However when I got back to the “real world” I missed nature a lot more. Computers, televisions, couches, beds, and showers are all great.. but spending all day getting dirty and not needing to worry about it and burning calories out of necessity in a beautiful setting and then falling asleep under the stars is way better. I would definitely do it again given the opportunity and if the food was better and healthier. (Oats and rice made up the majority of it)

  21. Excellent post as usual.

    Something else to include and maybe it goes with number 9 of communal exercise but what about the communal feed? Was it part of Grok’s regular routine to eat with his family or did he just eat on his own, everyone fending for themselves kind of deal? I’d be interested to know if there was a social feeding routine for our ancestors.

    1. People are hardwired to feed each other.Almost any socail gathering includes people trying to feed you, It makes sence for us, since every member of the tribe was important and needed to be taken care of.

      If you don’t think we’re hardwired to feed each other, watch a toddler with a baggie of snacks. They try to feed everyone and anything around them.

    2. If modern living tribes are any indication to how ancient man would have lived, then yes, feeding as well as hunting are both generally communal. It is severely inefficient to just fend for oneself, and in some tribes, is a form of punishment.

      You might go out on your own and catch a batch of fish and bring it back to everyone to eat, but maybe the next time someone else will do it for you. Or maybe when you’re older the kids that you fed will do it for you, too. But hunting bigger animals are generally done in groups, with at least 2 people involved.

      There is one tribe, though, that I know of that doesn’t eat together, however the food is served together. They just return to their respective huts or locations and eat alone, but this is probably some sort of outlier. Every culture is different, and if you consider European tribes to be your ancient ancestors or African tribes to be your ancestors, there can definitely be some sort of variation.

  22. I think answer t communal feeding we could probably look to the current tribes and historical info of our own native Americans. I think communal feeding was common probably more in smaller groups like family units, and after a group hunt or sch a larger communal feeding. I think in my family when we eat together we naturally take just our share so we can all eat, then leftovers well….
    I do sort of control amount on the table, enough for first serve, then rest is either left in stove/counter, which is in part to re teach the kids to listen to their hunger signals as well as me too. Sometimes seconds are more eaten for taste not because of real hunger. I have noticed that the kids gorge less than they used to so I think the diet changes plus how it’s served are having good effects.

    1. Most Americans are of European descent, and would then have to look to ancient European tribes (5,000-10,000 years old, which is pretty hard to do).

  23. My only concern is Cordain and Co were studying modern Paelo tribes, rather than hunter-gatherers.

    That being said, I think others have hit on omissions: puzzles and community.

  24. One of the best posts on primal fitness. Props to Cordain and Mark. I highly look up to both of you.

  25. Hey guys, a little off topic here but would really appreciate all feedback. Since discovering the Primal Blueprint, I have loved the lifestyle philosophy. Since the books arrival only a few weeks ago have embraced. Im still working my way through the content but have a good current understanding. Obviously really anti grains and pioneering the fruit and veg sector as a sufficient carb source, providing you eat enough of course. My current problem, at 6foot and 84kg, Im definately on the slim side already. An avid reader of your blog, in the gym 3 times weekly, ideally I would like to add size and increase my level of health. Problem is, less than 2 weeks of “primal” living and Im losing weight which is a concern. Can my “body type”, gain with fruit and veg as my main carb source? What would you suggest? Really need to get on the sweet potato daily? Any experiences?

    1. Sweet potatoes post work out for sure. Check out They have very similar food recommendations but sometimes focus a bit more on performance and lifting. They are also Dr. Cordain advocates.

  26. I wish I could find a barefoot/minimalist shoe that is appropriate for hospital/clinic work. I’m required to wear white, and the closes i can find is Merrells woman’s glove, I dont want to wear V5F because they will probably be considered “unprofessional” but I need somethin!

  27. the problem of course being time…mainly desk job + kid + cook all your own meals(incl grocery shopping, prep, cleanup) + live in midwest (cold & gray for half the year) = go to the gym a few times a week for group classes – i try to do strength 2-3 days, dance 1-2 days, kickboxing or yoga 1 day (or not). No, I don’t want much TV – haven’t seen or followed a single TV series since Seinfeld. I’d like to hear from people that work all day & have the luxury of going on a 6-16km hike with any regularity.

  28. I love the banner that hangs in my Crossfit gym. “We don’t use machines because we are machines”. That pretty much sums it up for me.

  29. I’ve purchased so many so-called diet books but “Primal Blueprint” is the only one that I really enjoyed reading and getting so much education. So far my wife and I are really enjoying our own versions of the meals staying on target and are looking forward to getting the recipe book…should be here tomorrow! Thanks Mark for your dedication and work. My first but not last post!

  30. I really like the 20-30 minutes resistance training twice a week… and never do the same workout twice.

    And thanks, Mark for the caveat “or just an extremely passionate one, focus on your sport. Exercise should breed pleasure”. I really like trying to hang in with the local bunch (20+ years my junior) for an hour or so. Makes being nearly 60 a gas.

  31. If I take up the primal life, will I live to be 35 or so? I am 70 now. I just wanted to know.

  32. Yesterday, I watched Anthony Bourdain visiting the San people in Namibia. I don’t think the real hunter-gatherer life is for me. I’ll stick to the citified version.

  33. Gyday Ladies and Gents from Australia…

    I have been turning back the clock with PB and have noticed something unproven but very consitant in my Olympic Squatting …..

    Before each workout I have fasted for 4 hours then taken a hit of Bio-Organic Coconut Cream..about 200ml…

    I must say that it has raised my adrenalin levels so that I am really pumping out some big weights for 1 and 3 rep max’s.

    It tapers off quickly; but if you can ride the wave and have very short rests between 1 and 3 rep max’s its incredible the way the adrenalin zaps you.

    Insane agression, but not like creatine or coffee…very clear minded…just lots of juices flowing .

    Im a PB at 85-90%. Ex gymnast/lifter. PB is so flexible….experiment with it.

    But HAVE FUN…..exercise CAN BE PLAY….and it should be.

    Try some coconut cream before a workout….the fats will release some amazing adrenalin rush.



  34. Hi Mark –

    Thanks for an excellent site! Really inspiring!

    I seem to have trouble downloading the PDF you reference in the first paragraph of this article though (“Organic Fitness: Physical Activity Consistent with Our Hunter-Gatherer Heritage”), as it keeps asking for a username and password…any idea what’s happening, as I’d really like to read it?

    Thanks again!