walking up steps

Everyone knows that exercise is good for you (as noted in my last blog post). But do you know why that’s the case? What’s the science behind why we must exercise to stay healthy? Do you know how people in modern, first-world countries compare to traditional hunter-gatherers in their exercise levels? Do you know how modern humans compare to our millions-year-old ancestors in their exercise levels?

All of these questions and more are answered in the wonderfully thorough book Exercised: Why Something We Never Evolved to Do Is Healthy and Rewarding, by Daniel E. Lieberman.

This is the most comprehensive review of the scientific knowledge on exercise that I have ever come across, packed into a readable 340 pages. The author is an expert in evolutionary biology and anthropology and is a professor at Harvard, and he brings this expertise to bear in covering his subject.

The book provides countless fascinating facts, including how a human runner compares to a running horse, a running dog, and other running animals; and what the optimal human running gait looks like. The book also offers practical information that we can use in our everyday decision-making. For example, Lieberman offers this gem from one scientific study:

“The study further concluded that half an hour of vigorous exercise and an hour of moderate exercise confer the same benefit.”

That’s great to know. Don’t have much time at the gym? Do a more strenuous workout. Don’t feel like doing a strenuous workout? Spend more time doing a workout of moderate intensity. And this book is packed full of similar need-to-know information gleaned from scientific research.

Have you exercised today?