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How often do hunter-gatherers/would our ancestors do things comparable to a maximum-intensity workout?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created December 01, 2011 at 5:45 AM

My impression, perhaps misguided, is that (paleo) hunter-gatherers walked a lot, might have chased an animal hunting every day (but would not generally get completely tired), and perhaps played some sports. Once in a while they might have fought each other, which I imagine would be full-intensity. But that would be far from a daily, or even weekly occurence.

Is this idea correct? How often should you give a workout 10 out of 10 in effort? And if not very often, can additional maximum intensity workouts be justified as helping reduce the negative consequences of a sedentary lifestyle?

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78427)

on March 24, 2012
at 08:08 AM

Judging by the hunter-gatherer women I have seen in documentaries, I doubt paleo women did anything particularly athletic but could no doubt out walk and out work most modern day women. I imagine their physiques would have been pretty similar to todays hunter-gatherer women and not much like those of female physique competitors.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78427)

on March 24, 2012
at 08:03 AM

Paleo women probably looked like todays hunter-gatherer women. Not particularly athletic.

A03f0d03067a43c61786481d91e5d3a0

(1078)

on December 03, 2011
at 01:25 AM

Heavy physical activity for social dominance seems plausible. But then what about women (or would paleo women have also behaved that way)?

A03f0d03067a43c61786481d91e5d3a0

(1078)

on December 03, 2011
at 01:23 AM

Rather than chasing a small bony squirrel I picture them chasing a meaty gazelle. And while the gazelle can outrun humans over short-ish distances, we can outrun gazelles over longer distances.

34b560c8b9ce660d7839fb7e29d7be89

on December 01, 2011
at 09:07 PM

Don't underestimate the competitiveness of young testosterone-filled men. I know from firsthand experience and from running a crew of summer youth workers that near daily wrestling matches as well as competition in all manner of activity can often approach maximum intensity for short durations.

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on December 01, 2011
at 07:11 PM

I agree. And I think the same "laziness principle" applies to other animals besides humans. My husband suddenly started having successful hunts when he stopped trying to stalk deer and elk in high-elevation, precarious (albeit beautiful) environments, and began instead to think of them as exerting the least amount of energy necessary to get the food and other resources they need.

7cab5a1f1fd48c3cc4938ab824fdb52e

on December 01, 2011
at 12:48 PM

As I read this, I conjured up the image of chasing a squirrel, which sounds ridiculously exhausting. But I guess they probably would have used traps.

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on December 01, 2011
at 04:30 PM

It's damn near certain our HG ancestors didn't end the day with thoughts of going on a 10 mile run, whether for "fun" or "training." Nor is there reason to think they lifted and carried anything for the purpose of "getting stronger."

I use the 1-10 perceived exertion scale in exercise, though I make it a point not to go to "10" because that says "maximum limit

3aea514b680d01bfd7573d74517946a7

(11996)

on December 01, 2011
at 07:11 PM

I agree. And I think the same "laziness principle" applies to other animals besides humans. My husband suddenly started having successful hunts when he stopped trying to stalk deer and elk in high-elevation, precarious (albeit beautiful) environments, and began instead to think of them as exerting the least amount of energy necessary to get the food and other resources they need.

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