Why exercising doesn’t come naturally

Daniel Lieberman, an expert in human evolutionary biology, posed in a paper, “Is Exercise Really Medicine? An Evolutionary Perspective,” that it’s not our natural inclination to exercise for health alone. “It is natural and normal to be physically lazy.” He explains that our ancestors struggled to amass enough food to make up for the calories they burned tracking down that food. So they needed to conserve their energy when they could.

Most modern humans who do exercise don’t need to worry about whether after a hard workout they will be able to make up for the calorie deficit. “Our instincts are always to save energy. For most of human evolution that didn’t matter because if you wanted to put dinner on the table you had to work really hard,” Lieberman said in an interview. “It’s only recently, we have machines and technology to make our lives easier. … We’ve inherited these ancient instincts, but we’ve created this dream world and the result is inactivity.” He points to escalators in a mall or a subway station. When they are positioned near stairs, most people will choose the ones that move for them. This is often true for elevators in buildings as well. People will drive around a parking lot several times looking for the closest spot rather than park farther away and have to walk the relatively short distance.

Lieberman points out that “People are often made to feel bad for not exercising and I think that’s just as pernicious and wrong and irresponsible as shaming people for being overweight. It’s not our fault that we are physically inactive, we live in a world that encourages that.” We need help because we’ve created a world where we don’t have to exercise anymore.

Educating people on the health benefits of exercise and movement is not enough to override this basic instinct. “There needs to be a cultural and environmental shift in how our physical activity is prioritized in schools, work and society in general. There need to be incentives to move,“ he said.

Source: Washington Post