NOV 28, 2016 7:17 PM PST

Modern Hunter-Gatherers Prove Exercise Is Worth the Hype

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker
One of the last existing populations of hunter-gatherers on Earth provide the rawest example of how vital exercise is for maintaining a healthy heart and lowering the risk for heart disease. From North-central Tanzania, University of Arizona scientists worked with the Hazda people, studying their physical activity habits.
The Hadza people, in north-central Tanzania, are among the last hunter-gatherers on Earth. Credit: Brian Wood
Women gather food, and men hunt for food. This is what a day in the life looks like for individuals in the Hazda community. The amount of exercise they get on a regular basis amounts to a level much higher than that of the United States government standard recommendations. U.S. federal recommendations call for 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity physical activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous activity or a combination of the two. These stipulations are met by Hazda individuals in two days but not met by most Americans in the entire week.

"Over the last couple of centuries, we've become more and more sedentary, and the big shift seems to have occurred in the middle of the last century, when people's work lives became more sedentary," said one of the lead researchers, David Raichlen. The Hazda study provides a picture of what exercise habits were like for all humans many generations ago.

The Hazda community has very low rates of cardiovascular disease and hypertension, even as individuals grow older. "In the U.S., we tend to see big drop-offs in physical activity levels when people age," Raichlen said. "In the Hadza, we don't see that. We see pretty static physical activity levels with age."

In their study of the Hazda, Raichlen and his collaborators from Yale University and Hunter College measured moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA), a known strong predictor of heart health, with chest-strap heart rate monitors and GPS trackers.

Raichlen said that he and colleagues were “trying to understand why physical activity and exercise improve health today, and one arm of that research program aims to reconstruct what physical activity patterns were like during the evolution of our physiology. The overarching hypothesis is that our bodies evolved within a highly active context, and that explains why physical activity seems to improve physiological health today."

Considering the factors that influence heart disease, there is still diet and other factors (genetics, smoking) to incorporate, but this study does make a clear statement on exercise and heart disease.

"Going forward, this helps us model the types of physical activity we want to be looking at when we explore our physiological evolution,” Raichlen said. “When we ask what kinds of physical activity levels would have driven the evolution of our cardiovascular system and the evolution of our neurobiology and our musculoskeletal system, the answer is not likely 30 minutes a day of walking on a treadmill. It's more like 75-plus minutes a day."

Raichlen's study was recently published in the American Journal of Human Biology.
 


Source: University of Arizona
 
About the Author
  • I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
You May Also Like
DEC 24, 2020
Cardiology
The Detrimental Health Impact of Ultra-Processed Foods
DEC 24, 2020
The Detrimental Health Impact of Ultra-Processed Foods
Prepared and highly processed foods have become very common, and they've been linked to negative health effects like obe ...
JAN 07, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
Breath of Life: Nighttime Respiratory Rates Identify Which Heart Patients Need Surgery
JAN 07, 2021
Breath of Life: Nighttime Respiratory Rates Identify Which Heart Patients Need Surgery
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide, taking nearly 18 million lives every year. Of these card ...
FEB 01, 2021
Cardiology
Improving the Lives of Spinal Cord Injury Patients
FEB 01, 2021
Improving the Lives of Spinal Cord Injury Patients
Spinal cord injury patients obviously have to deal with the loss of function, but another, less obvious problem many of ...
MAY 03, 2021
Cardiology
Task Force IDs 7 Costly Medical Procedures With No Benefit
MAY 03, 2021
Task Force IDs 7 Costly Medical Procedures With No Benefit
Researchers have identified a surprising number of health screens that are given to patients who may not need them. Thes ...
JUN 15, 2021
Cardiology
A Common Thread Among 20% of Sudden Cardiac Deaths
JUN 15, 2021
A Common Thread Among 20% of Sudden Cardiac Deaths
It's estimated that 450,000 Americans die from sudden heart conditions, and in about one in ten cases, the cause is unex ...
JUN 29, 2021
Immunology
The Heartbreaking Nature of COVID Revealed
JUN 29, 2021
The Heartbreaking Nature of COVID Revealed
Researchers at the Washington University School are getting to the root of heart damage resulting from COVID-19 infectio ...
Loading Comments...