Hunter-gatherers stay fit for life

By Shayna Brouker • Published: April 13th, 2017
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Does your new year weight-loss plan include hunting on foot for your lunch instead of brown bagging it, or foraging for berries instead of hitting up the vending machine? If so, you’re in good company with the Hadza tribe of Northern Tasmania. Their daily step counts are off the charts, according to a new study from Hunter College published in the American Journal of Human Biology.

Researchers wanted to test the theory that human physiology evolved from hunting and gathering to require cardiovascular fitness for optimal health, so they strapped GPS trackers and heart rate monitors to 46 tribesmen and women. It’s a small sample size, but their findings were impactful: combined with early research on the tribe’s heart health, an inspection of blood pressure, cholesterol and other factors showed no indication of risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

So what’s their secret? Walking, hunting and upper body workouts in the form of picking berries and digging up tubers — 135 minutes every day. Kids play all day long, and elders help get food — there is no age limit.

For those of us chained to desks most of the day, the lesson is that moderate movement built into the day rather than carving out an hour to work out intensely could be a more natural and beneficial form of exercise and heart health.

These findings complement previous research that suggests that an hour of exercise is not enough to fully alleviate the harmful effects of a sedentary lifestyle. The American Heart Association is now advising movement throughout the day.

So find excuses to get in tune with your inner Hadza, get up and get moving! The heart of a hunter-gatherer beats within you.