The paleo diet – a diet based on meat, fish, vegetables, nuts, eggs, and fruit – is more than just a way of eating for many of the people who embrace it. While it might begin as a weight loss strategy, it often turns into a complete lifestyle change. People who jump into a paleo diet often find themselves rethinking other facets of their lives, such as fitness. If you’re going to shift to a species-appropriate way of eating, then it makes sense to think about exercise in the same way.
So how do you exercise, especially if you want to lose weight? Do you spend hours and hours every week on a stationary bike? Do you go to hot yoga classes every day? Maybe you circuit train with weight machines?
While all of these approaches have benefits, you’ll find that none of them really match what our paleolithic ancestors might have done. If you consider exercise in the way that you consider food, you have to ask yourself what kinds of activity are species-appropriate for human beings.
So what would cave people have done with their time?
They walked a lot.
Paleolithic people were nomads. They moved from place to place. They probably spent a good part of every day walking, either to collect food, to hunt, or to find shelter. You can incorporate this into your lifestyle by walking every day, either as a form of transportation or as a form of recreation. Although you probably won’t be walking as much as your ancestors did, even thirty minutes per day can have a profound effect on your mood, your ability to concentrate, the quality of your sleep, your waistline and your overall health.
They carried stuff.
Imagine the things that our ancestors might have had to lift: children, food, supplies for shelter. You can replicate that in your everyday life by carrying things on a day-to-day basis: carry your groceries instead of using a cart, take a hike with your child in a carrier, carry boxes of supplies up the stairs instead of taking the elevator. Unless you have a highly physical job, it’s hard to get enough exercise in your day-to-day life, so you’ll probably have to add some dedicated strength training to your schedule a few times a week. Body weight exercises like squats, push-ups, and pull-ups require little space and equipment. You might also want to talk to a physical trainer to see about setting up a weight lifting program at home or at the gym.
They didn’t spend a lot of time sitting.
They certainly didn’t spend hours and hours sitting in front of the computer! Consider standing while working, either by using a dedicated standing desk or by using an overturned milk crate as a surface on a regular desk. Regardless of whether you sit or stand while working, take frequent breaks to stretch and move around. A good rule of thumb is at least 10 minutes of movement every hour.
They ran sometimes.
Paleolithic people certainly did their share of running – usually when they were trying to hunt something or avoid being hunted! While no one’s suggesting that you seek out wild animals to flee from, it’s a good idea to include some short cardio sessions into your week. Choose something that you enjoy – exercise, DVDs, biking, running, dancing – and get your heart rate up a few times a week!
They played a lot.
Based on what is known about modern hunter-gatherer societies, paleolithic people had lots of time for playing and socializing. Instead of zoning out in front of the television all weekend, think about active hobbies that you might enjoy with friends and family. Take up kayaking or cross-country skiing, go for a hike in the forest, play frisbee with the dog, do some home renovation projects – whatever sounds like fun to you! There’s no need to cut out sedentary activities altogether, of course. Reading, movies, television, and quiet card games can all be good for the soul. But there are definite benefits to striking a balance between sedentary and active hobbies.
If you’ve already embraced the paleo diet, it makes intuitive sense to try to extend that thinking to your fitness plan. Above all, paleo fitness is about moving your body and enjoying your life. Now get out there and start playing!