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

by (1078)
Updated November 19, 2014 at 3:24 AM
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?

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78422 · March 24, 2012 at 8:08 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.

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78422 · March 24, 2012 at 8:03 AM

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

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1078 · December 03, 2011 at 1:25 AM

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

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1078 · December 03, 2011 at 1:23 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.

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3443 · December 01, 2011 at 9:07 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.

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11986 · December 01, 2011 at 7:11 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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1173 · 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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8239 · December 01, 2011 at 4:30 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

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11986 · December 01, 2011 at 7:11 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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