Hate Working Out? Blame Evolution

Jen A. Miller in the New York Times:

On a recent Saturday morning, my dad and I walked our dogs to the local basketball court to see what a persistent “thump-thump” noise coming from that direction was all about. Instead of basketball players, we found a fitness “boot camp,” where a gaggle of people in bright, tight clothing did squats and lunges and burpees in different stations, all to the same beat.

“People are weird,” I said.

It’s not exactly that we’re weird, Daniel E. Lieberman argues in “Exercised: Why Something We Never Evolved to Do Is Healthy and Rewarding.” Instead, it’s the way we exercise that’s odd. “We never evolved to exercise,” Lieberman writes, and I suppose he would think that fitness boot camp was no weirder than my five-mile run earlier that morning, or my dad’s use of a Fitbit to track his steps. None of this is natural to human beings, and exercise is a constant game of trying to catch up to lives we were never really meant to lead.

Books about exercise are nothing new — especially not at this time of year. But “Exercised” is different from the usual scrum, in that its objective is not to sell a diet or fitness plan. Lieberman is a professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard University, and he comes to the material as a reluctant exerciser himself.

More here.