More exercise may not help you lose weight.
If weight loss is your primary exercise goal, you might be disappointed. According to Herman Pontzer, PhD and author of the book Burn, hunter gather societies are much more active than those living a modern western life but yet, they burn the same number of calories per day.
The bodies of hunter gathers use more energy to sustain their activity levels but need less energy to support their bodily functions. In other words, their bodies have freed up energy to support their activity.
Exercise makes your body function more efficiently which gives you the energy allocation needed to live more actively. That’s why more exercise doesn’t necessarily result in weight loss.
How active are hunter gather societies?
Women in hunter gather societies are reportedly doing 12,000+ steps per day, whereas men are doing approximately 10,000 steps per day. Both maintain their respective step count until the end of their lives.
What are the health benefits of exercise?
The research is still ongoing but so far Dr. Pontzer’s research suggests exercise improves bodily function in three ways.
1/ Exercise decreases inflammation [C-Reactive Protein]
2/ Exercise decreases stress reactivity [cortisol and epinephrine]
3/ Exercise decreases reproductive hormones [testosterone]
It takes years of exercise to realize the full benefits of these metabolic improvements but worth your effort to make exercise part of your daily lifestyle. Metabolic improvements are some of the most significant health benefits beyond weight loss maintenance and muscle mass preservation.
Is diet important for weight loss?
Diet plays a very important role in weight loss and your overall health. Traditional diets are reportedly as diverse as modern day diets. Proximity to the equator and temporal variations affect the availability of food for hunter gather societies. That’s why, according to Dr. Pontzer, the Paleo diet does not represent any one traditional diet.
Modern diets have evolved with our ability to manufacture food. Specifically:
1/ Farming of domestic plants which started 12,000 years ago and resulted in food with more energy, less fiber and fewer nutrients.
2/ Farming of livestock which started 10,000 years ago and resulted in food with twice as much fat.
3/ Industrialization of ultra processed foods started 100 years ago and resulted in relatively cheap, high calorie food engineered to encourage consumption.
In short, the evolution has decreased the nutritional density of food while increasing the caloric values. The body fat of hunter gathers increase as they transition to an industrialized diet.
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