Why Its Normal to Dislike Exercise


hi i'm elise lunen co host with gwyneth of the podcast. Today's guest is daniel lieberman but before we get to our conversation. I wanna thank our friends at kara who helped make today's episode possible car. Life as best known for delivering prepared organic plant based meals. Pack with superfoods straight to your door. It's a simple way to make sure you're getting variety of nutrients every day without all the prepping trips to the grocery store. More recently sakari came out with the line of daily supplement. Packs called the foundation like their meal program. The daily supplement hawks provide the advanced nutritional support. You need every day for gut. Health immunity energy healthy skin and overall the tally. If you've been hoping to do a little reset the new year to set some new habits and motion supercar lights programs are perfect place to start for more had to sikora dot com and enter code goop twenty at checkout. That's s. a. K. a. r. a. dot com to get twenty percent off your first order. Don't hold anything too tightly. Just wish for want it. Let it come from the intention of real truth for you and then let it go. The mayo soul is like. It's it's limitless but we will use words to limit ourselves when people stop believing that. Somebody's got your back or superman's coming. We turn ourselves and that's where you become. Empowered courageous participation attracts positive things. I'm gonna paltrow. This is the goop podcast bringing together. Thought leaders color changers creatives founders and ceo scientists doctors healers seekers here to start conversations because simply asking questions and listening has the power to change the way we see the world. Today is no exception a letter lease fill you in on her extraordinary guest all right over to elise daniel. Lieberman is a professor of human evolutionary biology at harvard university a pioneering researcher on the evolution of human physical activity and the author of a fascinating new book called exercised. Why something we never evolved to do is healthy and rewarding. Today we talk about why. It's so very natural to dislike exercise. Even though it's good for us lieberman explains how the instinct to avoid. It is normal which to be honest. I found very validating he also shares some ways. We can be more compassionate to that voice in our head. Badgering us to work out more. He explained some of the conflicting information around how exercise and diet interact and talk about different social motivators. That help get people out the door. We also talk about why there is no universal prescription and how much exercise a person should get despite how you've been inclined to medical. Is it in the culture. He offers one simple. But profound truth instead. Psalm is always better than none. Even if that psalm is very little and it's never too late to start. There is no one dose of exercise. Let's say how much happiness should we have right. It's it doesn't work that way right. Some is better than none. And moore's with look better but it all depends on who you are and what your goals are you. Are you old or young. Are you super-busy. Do you have two jobs. Kids are you worried about alzheimer's or your world about heart disease. Are you worried about diabetes. Are you worried about osteoporosis. I mean you know. We're all different and so trying to come up with a simple prescription is not gonna work. And furthermore what really matters is what you enjoy okay. Let's get to my chat with daniel lieberman. I would not classify myself as a lazy person. But since covid i feel like there two camps of people those who have embraced exercise like it's a full time job and have the six packs to prove it and then those of us who are staring at our fitbit's and the lake and really aggrieved by the fact that we've managed to only walk to the kitchen four times and that's it and i'm in the latter camp i just want. I'm just giving up right here. But it was very nice to read that that's my biological imperative. And why waste energy if you don't have to Think we're often very compassionate both to others as well as to ourselves. I mean it's it's an instinct to avoid unnecessary exertion and and it takes a lot of willpower and and skill and help from you know we have to help each other in order to do this because we we live in a world. That's that's very weird. We have to now choose to exercise and that's not an easy thing to do. Yeah no absolutely. I loved this particular paragraph. Up don't mind if i read it where you write beyond spreading confusion and doubt the most pernicious consequence of many myths about exercise. Especially the one about how it's normal to exercise is that we failed to help people to exercise and then unfairly shame and blame them for not doing it. Everyone knows they should exercise but few things are more irritating than being told to exercise. How much and in. What way extorting us adjust do. It is about as helpful as telling a drug addict to just say no if exercises supposedly natural. Why is it. The no one despite years of effort has found an effective way to help more people to overcome deep-seated natural instincts to avoid optional exertion and that was very comforting to say because it's true if given the choice unless i'm in a phase of being exercised addicted which is certainly happen to me. Then i i don't wanna go anywhere. No well i mean. That's you know that's what we evolved to do. I mean you know until. Recently people had to be physically active. Because that's that's how we live. That's how we survived. Every day you had to go out and hunted gather and and get food and take care of your kids and you know there were no machines to do work for you and there are no cars. There is no public transportation. There's no retirement. There was no weekends. And so that's how we lived our lives and but but but the energy that we acquired we just barely got enough right and it was hard to get a surplus and so under those kinds of conditions spending energy needlessly for you know say a five mile jog in the morning is was a bad idea right. It doesn't help you sir. Do what nature really cares about which is having babies right. that's ultimately what life is about that food in babies out that's the equation of life and so it's it's normal. It's natural to you. Know that little that little voice in your head that says take your elevator or you know or don't go for that run. It's no fun out there right. That's a normal instinct and we need help understanding them voice and also helping being compassionate about it rather than judgmental about it right. So i thought that that was very comforting and assuring thank you very much for not necessarily condoning my inertia but recognizing it as a basic human instinct. But i also thought it was so clarifying sort of the exploration of the evidence that we have about modern hunter gatherers or people who still are subsistence hunters et cetera. And the fact that there's they also tried to conserve energy and it's not. I think we've all been sort of bomb bartered with this idea that our ancestors were constantly moving climbing rock climbing. Who knows what they were throwing rocks. Essentially a modern olympics every single day and the reality is that they're more active but not substantially more active. That's right yeah. I call it. The myth of the of the athletic savage rafter rousseau's myths of the of the noble savage right. And this idea that you know. Our ancestors were jacked through super athletes. Who just got out of that and just ran ultramarathons and lifted giant rocks over their heads. All that and it's just not true. In fact it would disadvantages for them to be super strong and and disadvantages for them to to kind of waste too much. Needless energy which is doesn't mean that they didn't occasionally do it but they did it when it was important valuable to them and reporting for them so so basically i think we evolved to be physically active for two reasons right when it was necessary and when it was rewarding and you look at the vast sweep of human evolution and you look across different cultures. That's when people generally do it in into that and we're actually no different insists that we've come up with some very strange ways to make it necessary and and rewarding so. Can you explain this fascinating that this is the idea of powell's an how. What are powell likely. Looks like versus our ancestors versus the people who are the most active so a powell is just the physical activity level pal. And it's a it's a very simple way of measuring how active someone is or a species is so it's it's it's the ratio of how much energy you spending in a in a day. Your total energy budget right divided. By how much energy would spend if you were just in bed doing nothing right. What we call your basal metabolic rate and if you are you know if you're if you're purely in bed basically doing almost nothing right just like with the remote control and you never get out of bed all day long. Your your pal. What might be about one point two. That's very very very inactive. Typically physically inactive american typically sedentary. Prison has a paolo about one point. Six one point seven hundred gathers have pows of the we were all hunter gatherers until recently until six hundred generations ago before farming. Everybody was on. Together hunter-gatherers have that one point eight one point nine to two point one something like that. So we're about fifteen percent less physically active than typical togethers. Which is way less than say. France athlete or know michael phelps or somebody like that who they have house of like three or something like that crazy right so so the important point about that is that oh and by the way chimpanzees house of like one point five zoa sedentary american is still actually more active than typical wild chimpanzee. So that's i think an interesting fact but but physically active people until recently were at crazy active. I mean they're they're average. You actually measure how much time. They're they're active in a day. It's like to three hours right. Moderate to vigorous activity there. It's not like they're they're going crazy all day long. You know doing really really hard activity. I mean they're working. They're walking and they're carrying and they're digging and they're doing all kinds of sorts of things like that but they're not you know crazy physically active or cross type workouts every day. And so if you do one hour of exercise a day you you'd be the equivalent pretty much have your typical sort of reasonably inactive american managed to excise about an hour a day. You'd be pretty much up to the level of hunter gather. Yeah so interesting. And then obviously powell's of men are slightly higher than women as that just because they're they're bigger and they're burning more calories just men tend to be a little bit more active. It's it's it's sort of it standardizes for for body size. That's what that because basal metabolic rate is really essentially a function of how big you are. There's a slight difference between men and women in terms of how much of our wait. We are as fat versus versus muscle but and that has an effect some metabolism. But that's a that's kinda complicated issue. We don't wanna get into all those details. Well could if you want to probably probably in the weeds although not to do. A total sidetracked. But i'm sure you saw the new york times article this week. That was talking or last week. That was talking about discovering grades of women who were. Oh yes. I read that article. It was very cool article in in the in the in the andes there. You know we have this idea that only men hunt but now if you start looking in the graphic record is plenty of evidence that women live in hunt and all kinds of different societies and is a really korcula glove that from the andes that women have played important roles hunters and i seen that neth niagara fay's in in other parts of the world in australia and africa. You know some of the gender roles that we You know stereotyped gender roles are are just that they're stereotypes gender alster. The the truth is always much more complicated than the than the stereotype. I know and it's interesting. Just thinking about how dominant that those gender. Stereotypes are in the programming. And the way that we now socialize children rape. Women tend and befriend and gather and manhunt. It's so pernicious particularly if it turns out that not true you you know. It really does have enormous effects on how kids grow up and what. They're what they think is expected of them. It's we we really do. Need to fight these stereotypes. Yeah which. I also thought it was fascinating that you included you know whole chapter and fighting and aggression. Because that's probably aware socially we see the biggest distinction you boys more aggressive and physical with each other girls socialize to be not aggressive at all to the point of sort of it coming out sideways right and right and of course what. We often equate as the those kinds of aggressive interactions with exercise which they're not right and so you know if you look at a lot of sports. A lot of sports their evolutionary history. Their their social history isn't about getting physical activity. It's about teaching combat skills. Think about the olympics. That all the things that we really care about in the olympics faster higher stronger. You know a lot of those. Those those those competitions evolved to to help distinguish who the best warriors right back in the bronze age right and you know we tend to value human physical characteristics. That aren't necessarily all that important for health or survival in sort of normal sense but rather but they they do have important affects in in in the used to in in combat. of course. That's all been changed by by weaponry and fill a lot of sports. I think also argue are really about teaching people good sportsmanship which is really about controlling aggressive aggression. Right you know. The other team scores the goal. It's not appropriate to beat them up right. Yeah i mean we're sort of socializing are it's how did you describe it. It's we are reactively. No we're not reactively. Aggressive where proactively aggressive. Yes correct. yes so so so. There's two kinds of aggression reactive aggression which is when you just kind of spontaneously react to something like if you stole my book. I i'd smack you right without thinking right. That's reactive. Aggression and proactive. Aggression is what it's premeditated and planned and and what what what we are really good at. His is controlling reactive. Aggression and we use proactive aggression. Right that's what war is about. That's what sports are often about. And and i think sports one of the roles of sports societies. Teach people not to be reactively aggressive. It's not appropriate to to bash somebody. If they score a goal on you. Right or hitler referee or to complain that you lost the game instead you you you you behave honourably right you in your work together as a team to defeat to defeat the enemy. Let's take a quick break. Sticking to new habits can be pretty difficult. Which is something that i. A lot of us are reminded of around this time of year. It's also one of the reasons the team car. Life set out to create their programs whether it's through their chef crafted organic meals or their new line of supplements. Their goal is to make wellness. Feel a little more tangible by doing some of the heavy lifting for you. 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When we we think about you know obviously the book in a way is a petition or it stressing as much as we are loads to do it. How important it is to move our bodies in a moderate way right. We don't need to over exert ourselves or kill ourselves on the daily but we need to walk or run. I know you're a runner. I'm a terrible runner. So i took your tips in the book to heart. And i'm going to try and figure out how to run like a normal person but and is the idea you know. Obviously we have an obesity epidemic rampant metabolic syndrome etc. Is that just simply being outpaced by the food system and the way that we're living as modern humans rather than as much emphasis being put on being sedentary. 'cause i feel like that seems to be what what commonly pointed to well right now. We're suffering from just a raft of chronic illnesses right high heart disease and cancers and obesity and metabolic disease like diabetes and and this is really very long and extremely depressing and and of course like all these their multiple causes right their interactions between the genes that we inherit and the environments that we live in and a major component of of of the environment of course is to food that we eat right eat too much are the some people eat too much. And they get foods that are aren't particularly healthy very process and they're loaded with sugar and fat and things like that and and it doesn't do anybody good. Everybody knows that that's not like a surprise right. You don't need you know muted professor to tell you that but physical activity also plays a role and and it's you know it's been known for thousands of years and you don't you don't need to tweet a fancy book to realize that exercise is good for you but in terms of a lot of these. These conic illnesses turns out the physical activity. Exercise is really important for reducing our vulnerability and it does so in many different ways. One is it. It doesn't so much excise not the best way to lose weight. But i think we spend too much time thinking about exercise in relationship to weight loss if you if you really wanted to. A diet is the best way to go right. Nicest extraordinarily important in helping you prevent weight regain. Which is the big problem with most diets. If will lose the weight. It's not easy but they do the weight and then it comes back again but study after study has shown that if you exercise and you continue to excise after the diet is over it helps you. Prevent weight. regain and exercise helps prevent weight gain in the first by so. That's probably one of the big benefits of exercise but but it also has all kinds of myriad other benefits because it turns on all kinds of of repair and maintenance mechanisms. That are good for us. It turns on molecules like this one called beady enough brain derived neurotrophic factor which is like has been described as miracle. Gro for the brain. You know helps keep your brain cells. Happy and healthy helps may in may help prevent alzheimer's for example exercises by far the the best way for alzheimer's exercise is really important for preventing heart disease. And and it it kind of recharges your muscles so that you can regain the sensitivity to insulin. Which is the problem and diabetes. The list is long and very very very extraordinary but but physical activity is important component. It's not the only component of a healthy lifestyle but it's it is an important component and we don't need to distinguishing versus diet. We should be talking about exercise and diet but we need to do something in a compassionate way to recognize that that you know it's not easy to do and people have people struggle to lose weight and they struggled to exercise. And that's not because there's anything wrong with them. That's because it's it's it's we never evolved to lose weight. We never evolved to to to exercise. Which is needless discretionary physical activity riot and i think it has been presented culturally as a panacea and something that should be enjoyed. You know that something. They're not speculation of enjoyment. And my dad is a retired but he was a pulmonologist primary care. Physician for a lot of people who are aging had a lot of chronic diseases and his point was people would were so confused right. They'd be like. I don't understand like i walk on a treadmill for twenty five minutes a day. And he's and he's like but that that's like not even a snickers i in minds we. We think you know that we've exerted ourselves and thus we can eat whatever we want and it's kind of unfortunate that are. Yeah so if you if you walk a mile you spend about fifty calories and if you run that mile you spend about one hundred calories that sister a rough approximation course. It depends on your and how much way but you know. Fifty calories is is like nothing right. you know. it's i don't know what a snickers bar. But it's it's it's probably several hundred calories. There's no way so if if it's just about calories in calories out is not is not going to really do it. But and furthermore exercise is not gonna completely prevent you from getting heart disease and you know completely prevent you from getting other diseases but the evidence is unquestionable it lowers your risk lowers your vulnerability to a wide range of diseases. We have study after study after study. Which shows that your chances of living longer in your chances of the more importantly your chances of staying healthy right preserving your health of maintaining vitality and vigor go way up as cise and those benefits get more important as we get older and it's never too late to start like as you know. My dad obviously was big into the preventing or stopping smoking movement in some ways. And i'm like you're the way that everyone talks about smoking cessation. I don't i think it's kind of wrong. Which is it's not too late to stop. Your lungs will recover and they feel like people were always loathe to share that message because somehow felt like they were condoning. Smoking and obviously things can happen in the time that you're smoking where you're increasing risk and i'm not. I'm not an expert in this. Whoever i'm like you're you're burying the lead. Which is that if you're thirty five and you've been smoking for ten years. Yes you need to stop your. Your lungs will rebuild themselves and same with exercise. Like if you're older and you start exercising for the first time in your life you're still gonna reap a lot of the rewards right. We sort of we think things are zero. Sum games like i've been lazy there. For irredeemable absolutely so one of the famous studies on on this topic was the aerobics center. Longitudinal study so kenneth cooper clinic. He's the guy who invented the term a rooks and his a center has been tracking people for i think since the nineteen seventies the thousands and thousands of people. They've studied and and they've shown that that people who who are regularly fit in exercise have much much much lower rates mortality than people who never exercise but people who start exercising later on in life get a lot of benefit from it and they do much much much better and study after study. Shows the same thing and and the important to recognize. If you're if you're one of those folks out there like let's let's face it. Eighty percent of americans don't get the minimum levels of exercise that are recommended by the government. Right so so. our government. The world health organization the american heart association every major organization on the planet recomend that we try to get one hundred fifty minutes a week and estimates. Maybe quarter of americans do that. So so one out of four. So for the rest of the seventy five percent and they're like well. They're obviously struggling to exercise. But it turns out that you know even a little bit has enormous benefit if you just exercise an hour a week that can lower your rate of of getting a mortality age adjusted mortality by about thirty to forty percent. That's just an hour a week and one hundred fifty minutes a week which is just twenty one minutes a day can lower your rate of death by about fifty percent. That's an enormous benefit from really a pretty modest amount of exercise. Of course more will give you more benefit so but you don't need to do crazy amounts to get an enormous wonderful benefit. It's twenty one minutes. A day is not a lot most people can do. it is just. They're just kind of unmotivated and confused and lacks the kind of support to get started in what qualifies. What's that in that twenty. One minutes is a brisk walk enough or knowing waste motor. Yeah if you're if you're very unfit anything has been you know. Walk you know going around the block a few times as great. And you know as you get fitter you can you can increase your intensity. The important point is that some is better than none and and we don't have to be super prescriptive about it. It depends on who you are and what your your health state is. There's there's no point of. There's no kind of excise that's you know. If you're at that level there's nothing that's not going to be beneficial and if selected that you're sort of you reach a pretty good level of fitness and wet in your. I know you're not a medical doctor. But what would you prescribe a couple of days of weights and a little brisk jogger wa or well. yeah so. I really avoid those kinds of prescriptions. Not only because. I'm not a doctor because i don't think doctors should be making those kinds of prescriptions. Because there is no. There is no one dose of exercise. But that's like saying. How happy should we have right. It's it doesn't work that way right. Some is better than none. And moore's look better but it all depends on who you are. What you goals are are you. Are you old. Are you young you do. You have two jobs. You have lots of kids. Are you worried about alzheimer's or your world about heart disease. Are you worried about diabetes. Are you worried about osteoporosis. We're all different and so trying to come up with a simple prescription is not gonna work. And furthermore what really matters is what you enjoy and ultimately if you don't enjoy it you're not going to do it right so again. I i think that you know. I don i understand why we've medicalising exercise it. You know. we live in a world where we medically a lot of stuff and we've commodified. We've commercialized it. But but clearly medicalising exercise has not worked right. If three quarters of americans don't do it then we're not working you know we're not we're not doing it effectively. So i think the you know the this kind of notion that we should prescribe. Certain amounts doses of an exercise is not really helpful for most individuals. I loved the this the harvard. Study that you cited where they looked at alumni. Because i thought it was really interesting because there's sort of a bell curve right like there's there is an optimal amount and then if you get more than that that's great it's not necessarily gonna limb. It's not like you can limit your risk to the point of zero. Yeah no i mean no. I mean you can't. Exercise is not the fountain of youth. It's not a magic bullets from getting old and dying. We're all that that's like death and taxes. It's all gonna happen to us. Well i to most of us at least in terms of taxes but no that that harvard study that alumni study was the first really major epidemiological study on on on exercise and and was clever. Study because pathan burger path and burger. Who was prisoner. Did it realize that alumni from a place like harvard. Fantastic group to study. Because because you know harvard never lets them go right. 'cause they're always asking. They're always asking their lumps for money. Right so so they. They're in constant contact with these people right and he realize we got the harvard alumni office to let them let them ask a is alums about their health on their exercise habits and then he followed them for for decades and found that the ones who exercised more were healthier and live longer than the ones who excise less and the really key thing that path number found. Was that the older. You were the board. The benefit was so we didn't really find an optimum. What he found was that as you got older at basic level was even more important and you know the and there is no simple optimum. You can't calculate that. No one debate out there as if if you can exercise too much and there's a lot of back and forth about that is particularly in terms of carts but you know the fact of the matter is there's we're talking about a tiny tiny tiny fraction of humanity. That's at risk of exercising too much. You know the the vast majority of are at risk of exercising too little. And it's not really a a major medical concern for for for most of humanity riot. I love in terms of sort of finding finding finding the carrots and the sticks for getting people to exercise. And you know obviously talk a lot about how communal it is and how important that can be because when someone's waiting for you at the gym you're much less likely to show them up. But i loved the story of your friend. I'd never heard of this website stick k. e. s. dot com. That's a story. I love it. Will you tell it sure. So it's a friend of mine who was struggling to walk and to get more walking in and so she you know there's there's it's a it's called a commitment contract. Commitment contract is when you when you you commit to doing something. You have a referee or you put some you have some stakes at it right. So education is kind of a commitment contract. People pay money for me to force them to learn stuff and to give them exams and stuff like that right. They're they're paying for me to torture that right so in this particular kind of commitment contract would you can do through a website called stick dot com with a stick with two case she. I think gave like two thousand dollars to this website and her husband was referee and if she didn't walk i don't remember how many miles a week as her husband tested. The website would automatically send fifty dollars that week to the nra and hates the nra this like of all organizations on the planet. It's like it's like nath about right and so it was very powerful stick right. It was a motivator for her not to miss a week of of of her ever walking. And and it's worked really well for her and then you now you could. You can pick whatever stick you on or whatever carrot you want. But that's a kind of in a way how exercise always worked right. If you didn't do you weren't physically active while i mean it wasn't like you. Know hunter-gatherers have money from their bank accounts sent to the nra. But you wouldn't get enough food right. You wouldn't have enough to eat you. Your family would suffer so so we've been exercising because it sticks for years and i think the trick for us to find something like you know where you donate money the nra if you don't like the nra might be a little bit extreme but all of us can find various other kinds of commitment contracts that we could that we could use to help us top motivated theirselves for me. That's why i signed up races. It's not that. I love races but it forces me to train. I also have a running buddy in you. Know often meet him in the morning on. It's cold dark can miserable. And i never want to be out there at six in the morning ever. You know no way. I'd rather be in bed with my wife. But but if i don't go leave him standing on the corner and so i have to go and and that's another kind of commitment contract and and i think people who are really effective at exercising find all kinds of ways to get them to get going because once you get started than the benefits start to kick in right so going exactly the dopamine. That makes you feel like you had a great time doing it. Sadly that doesn't occur before you exercise that only occurs after exercise. We need to get ourselves out the door. But then i always know that when i come back from that run or going to the gym. Whatever that i'm glad. I did it and so and so. That's the reward afterwards totally but you know it's obviously it's the very beginning of january and we're all in new year's resolution land although i i stopped setting those long ago in part because they're not concrete and so i love the idea of stick dot com like as a family. I've told the story before but my dad the one who was you know. He's laser focused on weight almost to the point of being really annoying but he would see and his practice. Patients would gain five ten pounds a year until suddenly they're in a little bit of trouble and then it's very hard to lose forty pounds and he and my mom signed. They made a co- commitment to each other when they got married that they would weigh in every year the same weight and then they had this like discretionary pool of money that they would get and so they kind of gave it up eventually but it worked so they're very whatever works. Whatever it's everybody's different right. We all have different ways to motivate each other. But i but again. I think it's but you've given another example in which social in this case. It's it's been into wife. And i think that you know we you know so often are image of exercising as you go to the gym and you plug yourself in with your ipod or you know you're listening to a podcast or like maybe this one you watch something on tv. Whatever and your free solitary but you know thinking about the things that give us most of us pleasure. I mean it could be fun to meditate on iran or a walk and whatever but a lot of the ways that we help each other things is is by his is socially doing them in groups and of course in this in this pandemic where we're all isolated is become super hard and we have to find new and creative ways like you know like my wife has been exercising on zoom with with people right you know i mean who'd thunk that she would have exercised on zoom but you know it works and they interact and have fun and it helps them motivate each other. And that's great. Yeah now totally. And i think i need to find my path clearly because i was a big like dance cardio person with friends and so that was my cathartic release and i did it as much because it was fun as i did for the conversations after so i need to. It's been nine months. I can probably figure out how to how to find that sense of community online but it certainly hard and at i doubt i'm malone and and not really moving. No it's hard. I mean like i have in my my my phone right has one of those little step counters right and you know. I'm reasonably physically active person but my my average daily steps plunged by more than fifty resent. 'cause you know i'm not going anywhere right. So the only physical activity. I'm getting is when i basically had out the door and go for a run. You know what kind the machine or whatever and if you know you're missing that you're you know you're going to become very very physically inactive because a lot of activities not about exercise that all the other stuff that we do right. No certainly i mean i think in a normal moving around you get what like five thousand six thousand steps. It depends on the person. The average american gets about four thousand steps a day. Not exercise right so absent absent going going anywhere. It's it is really hard to do that. So i thought it was really helpful at the end when you break down by disease and i know we talked a little bit about metabolic syndrome but can we talk a bit about cancer and specifically that study of six hundred and fifty thousand adults. Well i mean. I think you know of all the diseases. That strikes terror into many people's hearts in certainly mine is no exception. Cancer is number one right. That's the one disease i'm most worried about. And and you know we we. We think so much about getting when we get cancer on a nuke you want to cheat it with chemotherapy etcetera but but the other approach that we really need to take more to cancer is to prevent it in the first place and i know that people like me sound like a broken record but this is really where the some of the huge benefits of exercise are. As is. it's very preventative for for a number of forms of cancer and and the numbers are all over the place. And you can't give exact number because it depends on on your sex and age etc but but breast cancer rates for example just moderate just one hundred fifty minutes. A week of physical activity can by some estimates can lower your risk of breast cancer by thirty percent or more. That's huge right. If you can lower breast cancer by getting out and walking twenty thirty minutes a day. I mean i'm not not enough. People know that colon cancer and prostate cancer and the list goes on. It's it's really quite remarkable and we even know. Some of the mechanisms by by which exercise is beneficial in terms of preventing or helping to prevent cuts again. It's not a magic bullets. Totally prevent it but it really does reduce people's risks and and so you know there's lots and lots of epidemiological studies there's method there's there's there's hardcore sort of mechanistic studies you know. We have an abundant amount of evidence that you know part of our armament terrorism to fight cancer is to prevent it and a chief way of doing that is to is to stay physically active right and we we sort of started talking about chronic diseases at the beginning of the conversation but what we're experiencing collectively as that. Our life expectancy will theoretically our life expectancy is is kind of typical with hunter gathers right there was just a lot. More childhood mortality. There were in so it brought that the average down now that were sort of over that hump we. We're not essentially living longer. And not only are we not living longer. Were spending the last. What ten years of our life. Battling multiple chronic diseases yeah big misconception about about hunter gatherer in our ancestors is of is about by expectancy. So it's true that until recently people didn't live as long as we did today and that's partly because of of agriculture once farming was invented and people started living in villages and towns and didn't have good sanitation. And and and you know. The disease was rampant you know smallpox to brick yellow sus. And you know the list goes on of course now seeing that again with covid but but hunter-gatherers if they survive infancy and childhood they tend to live about you know two decades after after. They stopped reproducing. So they live into their seventies. And you know we're a little higher than that. The united states today most americans course depending upon on where you live. What zip code is and and how much money you have. and so. There's a lot of inequalities in terms of health health span and Lifespan but the the other distinction is that is that we often measure life span. But we don't really measure health span and as we are living longer but we also living a longer portion of that life with chronic diseases. And so i think it's important to distinguish chain health span lifespan and again. That's where he comes in because physical activity extends your health span so that you spend less of your time towards the end of your life morbidly ill. There's a very famous physician researcher. At stanford they jim freeze who the kerm compression of morbidity morbidity is illness and so what exercise does is it compresses shortens the time at which were were ill towards the end of our lives and it means that we spend more of your life vital and vigorous and healthy and enjoying yourself And partly you know. That's the we we touched on it a little bit but that when you stress your muscles or or you know stress your body it goes into repair mode. It's similar to like a a medical fast right like your body sort of jumps to start cleaning itself up. Yeah i mean it's fascinating if you're really you know why is it that exercise so so healthy and the answer is it's it's stressful but it's a normal kind of stress. It's a stress that our bodies expect what we call a use stress. And you know so when you exercise your your kind of you know you're producing your mitochondria. Which the little sort of a kind of energy the batteries of your of your cells. They're producing was called reactive oxygen species they're producing models that that kind of rest. Your your body right. And you're producing causing inflammation in your tearing your muscles and cracking your bones and you know denatured protein to all kinds of bad stuff when you exercise your body temperature goes out but but our bodies are adapted to that and so we turn on all kinds of repair and maintenance mechanisms that that not only fight those stresses but actually keep keep your body's going really well so it's like the medallions like if you spill something on the floor and then you clean it up the floors and cleaner after the initial spill right and and the thing is we didn't evolve turn on a lot of those repair and maintenance mechanisms in the absence of exercise because we didn't evolve not to be physically active on a regular basis right. So so you got to turn on those stresses in order to turn on your get your to produce its own anti-oxidants to get your body to produce anti-inflammatories to get your at your muscles or the major producer of anti-inflammatories. Yeah people are taking garlic and turmeric and all kinds of stuff the best way to prove inflammation your might turn on your muscles. You don't need to spend anything. There's also interesting experiments to show that you know if you if you go out and buy antioxidants you actually blunt the response of your body to exercise in terms of its producing anti-oxidants on you get less less benefit says it turned out to be just a you know it's free there's no side effects and it's hasn't manifold benefits you turn on thousands of genes that have all kinds of positive beneficial effects. I know you're a runner in the buckets. Really does have to make a very compelling case for running and i need to i need to rethink my relationship with running but i thought it was really helpful that you you punctured the myth about running and which is something. I've always believed that it sort of wears out your body. So can you talk a little bit about that now. We have this wear and tear myths with running right that it's you know it's like like using your car too much right. You know you like you wear out the shock absorbers and that you like wearing out. The shock absorbs in your joints which are the just the cartilage but turns out. That's a myth. It's not true. It's should runners do injure their knees. Sometimes it's the most common sight of injury. I mean you can't you. Can't you know everything has costs and benefits and exercise does risk injury. We all know that but but the idea that it wears out your joints is just not true and in fact the studies show that many studies show that runners are not more likely to get arthritis in their knees in fact if anything is slightly less likely to get a threat. It's in their news. The problem is once you do get a threat is running really will exacerbate it's excruciating. It's painful and difficult so we shouldn't blame running on people getting neo a if anything running may help you prevent it but once you get near th- rightous than than that's challenging and and we need to find ways to help people get physically active because then you get into that kind of classic you know vicious cycle. When 'cause you can't exercise and then and then and then your body rep more rapidly deteriorates. So i know you don't want to be prescriptive but it someone say someone like me is going to start running. The idea is to add a tiny that at a distance at a time right and then to sort of explain those four sort of the four elements of good running for. Yeah so i think part of the problem with running that it's a skill and we don't teach people how to run anymore you know. They're they're great ways to swim their ways to climb a tree and the rick wasted to play tennis and all that and running. I don't think it's any different. I think there's good running form in bad running for him and we just kind of tell people just put on a pair of shoes and go run and and sometimes actually issues might be part of the problem because they're so cushioned. You can't really feel what you're doing so to me good. Running form involves a few elements. The first is you should have good. Posture shouldn't be leaning forward too much. You want to have a high cadence. Oh so good. Runners get run about one hundred and seventy two hundred and eighty steps and minute. You can use your iphone or a metronome or something like to can get you to do that. You wanna you wanna not overstride so you wanna stick your leg out too much so good if you get your knees up that that problem and then finally you want to land with relatively flat foot and if you're barefoot you're gonna you're gonna definitely on the ball of your foot if you wearing a cushioned shoe. You might like he'll strike but you're not gonna land really hard right so you don't crash into the ground if somebody's like sounds like an elephant when they're running that's not a good soundtrack. That's that's a. That's a collision happening with each step right in that collision can't be good right. So you the lightly and gently. And i think that's one of the reasons why you know i don't i don't think barefoot running as a panacea that we learn about just taking your shoes off every once in a while because you can't run you can't run that way when you're barefoot right. It's hurts right and so learning some of those barefoot running. I can help people some of the skills of running which you can apply to your self either whether whether wearing a show or not. Yeah so interesting. Because i as a tall person with long legs i think. Just i'm sure i over stride. I think thought that that was what i was supposed to do. So you mentioned posture and just like a few more mess in the book that i think are really interesting. You talk about the set sitting obviously because the book is partly about how we are sedentary but that sitting is part of hunter gatherer life as well and that this idea that our posture is responsible for back. Pain is not correct. Just that you know that totally surprised me when i was working on that section of the book. That's not a. That's not something i work on and when i started reading the literature i was just amazed. Start reading that. There's you know when people slouch in. Yeah we're all told sit up straight and you know have good posture. We've kind of confused cause and effect. It turns out that the reason people slouches that their backs aren't very strong. And so it's you know slouching. Basically makes you basically spending less muscular effort to sit. So which is why. it's why we like to slouch. But it turns out that slouching itself doesn cause back pain is study after study after study rather slouching is a is a kind of a like a a symbol as signal that maybe you have a week back and it's and it's back strength particularly back endurance. That seems to be really important in terms of preventing burning a lot of kinds of back pain. so so. don't blame if if you're if you're slouching in your chair that's not going to give you a backache but if you're if you're back is really week which which is why you app slouching while that might be. That might be a problem. Got it and then the other. I love to sleep and prioritize it and have been very happy that everyone's suggesting that we get bar to less. But i thought that was also fascinating. That hunter gatherers or forager's the they get like six hours a night. So you know. I think again. We have this very on compassionate stressful way of anxiety provoking way of dealing with health issues in society. And that's part of this prescriptive commodification of of health right and and one of them. Is you need eight hours of sleep. And i always thought you needed our asleep and i actually started that chapter because i was curious now for told us it last why we talk to sleep more. That was really what what what got me interested in that topic and i was fascinated to read that. You know just contrary to what we're told. Which is that you know in the modern world. Because of thomas edison electric light bulbs and computers and tv and cell phones at robbed us of our sleep. Turns out that people don't have any of those things who don't have electricity and cell phones. Tv's the asleep anymore than we do. Right they sleep. You know six seven hours. Max and so so. There's really no evidence that that that we've actually were sleeping less now because of all this of all this technology and then to my surprise when i start looking at the epidemiological literature. There's no evidence that eight hours is optimal. If you look at curves that plot you know. Essentially hours of sleep on the on the on the horizontal axis and and your likelihood of heart disease for example on the on the on the vertical axis right and this is sleep. That's been measured rather than self reported. 'cause you know if you tell if i told you how much i slept last night i i'd be wrong right asleep. How would i know right but if you actually use measured sleep it turns out that there's a u shaped curve and the bottom of that curve is if you know. This population is about seven hours so so more people do better on seven hours than any other amount rights. Of course there are probably some people who do best on eight and some people may be who can just get by just fine with six but seven turns out to be for most people. The sweet spot well. I am recovering from cova. But i slept nine hours last night. Sure when you're sick you're using your immune system is using a lot of energy right and so that's that's an important time to get a lot of sleep absolutely and and the other thing is that's exercise helps asleep right. You see her. We all know that you sleep. Because here's the other pernicious thing about all the sleep stuff is that we we make people stressed about it right. We tell them that you're not getting enough sleep right. So what does that do. It makes you psychosocial. He stressed psychosocial stress causes cortisol levels to rise cortisol. It doesn't cost. Us it's released by stress but cortisol keeps you alert and so cortisol prevents you from sleeping. And and and then we end up treating the symptoms of the of the stress rather than the causes and and driving system forward. And so we we. Now we know we spend a fortune on sleeping stuff. You know we have these super comfortable mattresses and you know and we have. We isolate ourselves in these dark rooms with thick curtains in no noise and devices we clip on our noses and god knows what right and and and yet others managed to sleep know in the saddle or an like leaps on the floor in the ground. You know without any of the stuff you know you can sleep in all kinds of Environments if you're not stressed about it but we make ourselves stressed it's funny to me how we sort of romanticize our ancestors and adopt certain things that we maintain our like you have to eat like this you have to but we but we are also prioritize our comfort in a way that wasn't available or i don't know it's funny. It's like it. I don't we liked to pick and choose. I guess i mean glorify comfort. I mean look everybody like i always prefer flying business class economy right. I mean comfort is nice but comfort isn't necessarily good for us but lack of effort isn't necessarily virtuous either or necessarily good for us we. We have a very bizarre relationship to or attitude towards comfort. It's true so what are you as someone who thinks about this and studies you know sort of modern day the people who are closest to our ancestors in the way that they live how would you what what do you think is essential for bringing forward. I know you don't want to be prescriptive. But i guess the instinct to override our instinct to set the just like we need to be. We need to be sort of kind to ourselves and realize that we didn't have to be healthy to have lots of offspring and we have all kinds of insects that we that we inherited from our ancestors that that made sense in a very different kind of world where we had to be physically active where we didn't have access to to to abundant in our calories. Lots of salt. And you know fiber free foods and all that and today now because of the world that we've created for ourselves which is replete with abundance and comfort and all kinds of other wonderful things. We now have to choose to do various things. Do choose various behaviors that benefit us but aren't necessarily instinctive so you know when you're in next year in a mall and there's an escalator and a stairway right your instinct is going to be to take the escalator. Even though of course there were no escalators in the stone age right but it's an instinct to to save that energy right and that little voice that tells you take the escalator right. We have to listen to his sales realized that that instinct is normal and natural. But it's our job if we you know to override that and that there are benefits over-riding that but there's nothing wrong with you if you wanna take the escalator. There's nothing wrong with you. You don't need to exercise. You know hours and hours a day and and you don't have to throw away all the chairs in your house and only use a standing desk but a little bit goes a long way. Yeah i loved that. I know we're out of time. But i loved that sort of the study that you did at the convention for people like you and found that people like you take the escalator at the same rate as average sure so human beings. Well thank you so much for your book and for your time today and stay. Well thanks for listening to my conversation with daniel lieberman for more from daniel. Please check out. His book exercised why something we never evolved to do is healthy and rewarding. That's it for today's episode. If you have a chance please. Rate and review hit subscribe to keep up with new episodes and pass it along to a friend. Thanks again for joining. I hope you'll come back for more. And in the meantime you can check out. Dot com slash the podcast.

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