This blog was founded, simply as a platform to share feelings towards worldwide health, specifically the dangerous state worldwide health finds itself in and our ambitions and plans, through conversations, tools etc. for improving the health of the human population. So I want to start with how I see the current state of human health, as by identifying the problems we can create solutions.
Richard Dawkins in his book the selfish gene said that to understand the nature of a species, you must first understand the environment in which it evolved. The rapid rate of social and human development has meant that we now live in a world so far removed from that which we evolved in. We evolved in an environment where an average human would expend 4,000 calories per day, through a range of functional movements: walking, running, carrying, pushing, pulling, jumping. Human society in the developed world lives a sedentary life typified by driving to work, sitting at a desk, returning from work, sitting on a couch, and going to bed. I think you can see the difference there.
Firstly, we sit upright. A chair, a car seat, a sofa, a toilet, all require upright sitting, and they all have an upright back support. We evolved to have our very own back support, the spine, and its surround muscular structure. The chair is a fairly modern invention in the context of human evolution, and is only really prevalent in modern western societies. We evolved to stand up regularly, sit (and shit) in a squat position, or sit or lie on the ground. If you go to any third world countries, they sit for long periods of a time in the squat position, for comfort, or to take a dump. The squat position exercises the full range of movement of the hip joint, and requires a strong a stable core to perform (strictly speaking, it doesn’t require a strong and stable core at all, any toddler can perform it perfectly, the problem is the western world rarely sit in a squat position, and therefore the muscles engaged to hold that position are rarely engaged, thus lose their efficacy, so a strong and stable core is required and the strength I refer to is relative to that of a typical westerner). The fact that we are not squatting, not standing that much and spend our lives in chairs, beds, sofas and toilets, is one reason we suffer back pain, and need hip replacements. EVERYBODY, SQUAT MORE!!
Secondly, few people burn 4,000 calories per day pushing, pulling, running, jumping, carrying, lifting…. Mostly because we don’t need to. Our world is organized and fairly safe. It’s rare in the western world you find yourself having to climb a tree to pick fruit, or dig a hole to find vegetables, or to chase a wild boar and wrestle it for meat, or cut down trees or carry trunks and branches to build shelters. These are the conditions we evolved in and are so far removed from the conditions we, in the western world, live in.
Now I’m not trying to say that the conditions we evolved in are any better. That world was harsh, uncivilized, tribal and dangerous. We do need to acknowledge that our bodies, to be healthy, need to perform the range of movements that they evolved to be able to perform, otherwise our bodies will suffer the ill health that practitioners of the modern lifestyle suffer, chronic back pain, rheumatoid arthritis (a chronic inflammatory disease that causes joint pain, stiffness, and swelling), avascular necrosis (loss of bone caused by insufficient blood supply), and obesity related diseases.
The mention of obesity related diseases forms a nice segue into the food we ate in the environment we evolved in. Firstly, there was no such thing as refined sugar, refined carbohydrates, hydrogenated fats, in fact, there were not industrial processes of refining or hydrogenating, there was simply picking, cutting, cooking and eating. Any knowledgeable dietary practitioner will tell you to eat fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts, and seeds – this provided the majority of the 4,000 calories our ancestors burnt in a day.
Meat however is a slightly controversial subject, some say that our hunter gatherer ancestors were actually mostly gatherers, and didn’t do much hunting. Speak to any vegan and they will tell you this, and by the way I am not about to criticise the vegan diet, I think the health benefits are fantastic, although only when processed foods particularly refined sugars are eliminated. The benefits of the vegan diet extend beyond human health, to the health of the planet, but that is a topic for another post.
I see greater evidence to say that we did evolved to hunt for meat than evidence that we did not. I don’t think we need to look much further than the fact that we are able to digest meat and we are able to hunt and can even take great pleasure from it, to suggest that hunting and eating meat is part of our evolutionary history. There may be something to be said for the theory that the consumption of meat only occurred in humans after the advent of fire which enabled meat to be cooked – how we prepare most of our meat today. Although many say that most fresh raw meat is edible if it eaten soon after the animals is dead before there is time for harmful bacteria to take over. In modern western society, we only really eat the flesh of the animal, whereas in reality we evolved to eat the nutrient rich organs of the animal, liver, heart brain, just about anything except fur and bone. Bone broth though….
In summary the three major problems we see with the health of western society, and I state these in inverse order of how I perceive their importance: (I) we spend too long in a sedentary seated position (ii) we do not burn near enough calories performing a wide range of physical movements and (iii) we eat too much of the wrong food.
So to address these problems, we at project fitness firstly advocate the use of stand up desks, squatty pottys, and holding a squat regularly when performing any relaxed task low to the ground – reading, gardening, motorcycle maintenance etc. We are devising various products to facilitate regular and intense functional movements, and we will provide nutritional advice and meal plans aimed at cutting out refined products and eating those foods our bodies evolve to live off .
Watch this space!!