Answer to “SingerSavedMe”

By the way that is quite a, old school, handle. Curiosity bids me wonder what it could mean.

Here was the question:

“Since hunter-gatherers had to walk in order to find home and food, I thought walking was good, healthy exercise. However, you talk about explosive, intense concentric exercise as being best for humans. What is explosive, intense concentric exercise, and why is it healthier than safe, sensible walking?”

This is an insightful question as it gets at the way evolutionary anthropology can give us direction in understanding our deep historical biology.

First off I want to be clear that I think walking is wonderful for our health. It just so happens that its benefits should not be put into the category of ‘exercise.’ In my opinion our understanding of exercise should be limited to those activities that have a transformative metabolic effect; it should be limited to those activities that turn on anabolic change: the change of making new stuff or making old stuff new. Ballistic, or dynamic, whole-body exercise that requires or recruits intrinsic athletic abilities and skills does this.

Walking does another important thing; it calms us, it turns down our metabolism, it restores our visual, auditory, full-sensory awareness of our surroundings and deeper inner emotional, even spiritual, needs.

Now why would this be necessary for our hunter-gatherer ancestors, be built into their and thus our biology, and essential for us in the current age to reincorporate into our habits?

Well as hunters we needed extreme strength, speed, laser-like focus on a single-end-in-view and ‘blind’ determination. As gatherers we needed to pay close attention to our surroundings, every detail and nuance of our surroundings, to find food, to be aware of predators, and sometimes even be able to endure on the trek to the next hunting ground with little or no food. We needed to have a very efficient metabolism that would not squander energy so that we might survive to the next opportunity to thrive.

And that is the difference: our hunter self needed to thrive, our gatherer self needed to survive. The choice is not between these two but how to blend them into the whole self we are designed to be.

Now the details of the kind of exercise that makes us ‘thrive’ will be the subject of coming blogs. There is an enormous amount of science in exercise selection, sequencing and the role of heart rate patterns and dynamics in effective exercise. We will get to that.

In this response I hope I have been an adequate champion of the value of walking, if married preferably holding you wife’s hand, and its value is enormous; it just isn’t exercise. One of my reasons for taking walking out of the category of exercise is to restore it to its proper place of prominence. It is very important for health!

  3 comments for “Answer to “SingerSavedMe”

  1. Sri
    February 9, 2015 at 8:14 pm

    Thanks Doctor, I have a Question on Walking….,

    in the Post about Fasting, you had mentioned that “the system shuts down” when Walking, does this mean its catabolic? I ask this because, I love walking and cycling, I walk a minimum of 10 kilometers each day and 15 Kms in (stationary cycling) I also do some weightlifting with Kettlebells and Sandbag and bodyweight exercises like Yoga and Jumprope training… does my walking negate the muscular gains I get through my weight training?

    • QMWebJockey
      February 12, 2015 at 5:57 pm

      Hi Sri,
      If done to excess such activities can be actively catabolic. What truly constitutes excess depends on your metabolism and the question can only be answered accurately by direct measurement of VO2max, serial bone density and catabolic and anabolic markers iteratively over time. Dynamic strength is a good marker. You can use surrogates like gains in squat, deadlift and other whole-body strength in the meantime. Always full range of motion for these and other such movements. Don’t get caught in the ‘squat to parallel’ error and thus be misguided about gains which are just improvement in a learning curve rather than true muscle gains. Sri, that will have to do for a reply in this forum. Dr. Mike

      • Sri
        February 14, 2015 at 3:38 am

        Thanks Dr.Mike

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