ESSENTIAL ELEMENT: Movement as a Nutrient
Critical Concept: Exercise is not a luxury – it’s an essential nutrient
You have inherited an incredible genetic legacy. One thing is for sure – you are the direct descendent of successful human beings. The definition of success here is, of course, someone who survives long enough to reproduce. Your genetic make-up can be thought of as a microscopic, “cellular blue print” for your health potential. Your genes were shaped over thousands of generations by environmental pressures and the choices that your ancestors made in order to adapt and survive these challenges. Not only was an active lifestyle a trait that all successful human beings had in common, but it is a critical concept to think of movement as a nutrient - just like water or hydration is critical to all aspects of cellular function, movement is an essential elementfor health. It’s not simply about “being in shape.”
If your ancestors didn’t move, they didn’t eat. In fact, if they didn’t move, they were eaten. Early man lived an incredibly demanding lifestyle – hunting, gathering, fishing, defending; life was active. This genetic legacy that we’ve inherited expects and requires an extraordinary level of movement. In fact, genetic experts agree that our genome has remained nearly unchanged over the last ten thousand years, yet our lifestyles today are nearly unrecognizable to the world that shaped them.
When was the last time you chased down your lunch? And we don’t mean with a diet soda. Did you fetch water today? Build a shelter or collect wood? In all of man’s history, there has always been an intimate relationship between energy acquisition and energy consumption (read: getting food and eating food). Today this is far from the case. In the modern world there has been a divorce between securing calories (finding food) and consuming calories (eating food). This has created a devastating energy imbalance that has led to an obesity epidemic that is at the root of our world’s chronic illness crisis. At the epicenter of the chronic disease epidemic is a lack of regular movement as part of our lifestyle.
Your Paleolithic Stone Age hunter-gatherer ancestors never had the option of sitting down at a restaurant and ordering a nutritious dinner off of a menu – never mind driving up to a take-out window and have someone throw a bag of fast food into their car. This lack of calorie-burning activities such as hunting and foraging has been compounded by the toxic and deficient food choices that we make. This “disconnect” between our active genetic design and our current sedentary lifestyle is killing us.
Bottom Line: Your cells require and expect movement to be healthy.
Our ancestors did not work out; they did not “exercise” – their existence was exercise. This is not the case with us. We must supplement our comparatively sedentary, movement-deficient modern lifestyles with exercise and activity. The first place to start is to add activity to every area of your regular life. Best Practices include: taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking to school, or biking to work. Parking your car as far away from your destination as time allows is a vital behavior. Remember, research shows that all activity is cumulative; it all adds up. In other words, three ten minute walks are the energy equivalent of one thirty minute walk – so get to it!