The new guidelines for physical activity may surprise you – We evolved to move!

The Chimpanzees, with whom we shared a common ancestor approximately 7 billion years ago, are our closest living relatives. Since then, a lot has happened, including our coming out of the trees and adopting a hunting and gathering lifestyle still lived by some tribes around the globe. This change in lifestyle and habitat led to […]

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The Chimpanzees, with whom we shared a common ancestor approximately 7 billion years ago, are our closest living relatives. Since then, a lot has happened, including our coming out of the trees and adopting a hunting and gathering lifestyle still lived by some tribes around the globe. This change in lifestyle and habitat led to significant physiological adaptations. Differences between humans and chimps include our upright position and bi-pedal walking, a proportionally larger brain, increased fat stores, and a body made to move.

Whereas chimps in the wild lead sedentary lives and typically walk 3000 steps a day, for us, this would be a recipe for disaster. Unlike our simian cousins, we need to move at least 10 000 to 15 000 steps a day to stay healthy.

A recent publication in the prestigious journal JAMA, entitled Physical Activity Guidelines (PAG) for Health and Prosperity in the United States, provides important insight into this issue. The authors point to data showing that only 26% of men, 19% of women, and 20% of adolescents meet the PAG recommendations in the United States. This lack of meeting “movement quotas” translates into a huge loss in health and a rise in health costs.

According to the PAG, “sufficient physical activity for adults is at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity per week combined with 2 days per week of muscle-strengthening activity. For youth (6 through 17 years), recommendations include at least 60 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity per day and 3 days per week of muscle-strengthening activity”.

The health benefits of physical activity are enormous, reducing the risk of diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, dementia, and 8 forms of cancer (bladder, breast, colon, endometrium, esophagus, kidney, lung, and stomach). Also, physical activity improves sleep and therefore brain function. Billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of lives could potentially be saved if we simply moved more, not to speak of the improvement in life quality.

In conclusion, do not let the ape in you or the digital in us dictate how you spend your free time – in other words, find ways to enjoy moving!

Please note: This piece was adapted from Sofia’s blog post

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