Dan Lieberman Evolutionary biology

082: Daniel Lieberman on evolving to exercise

This week’s guest is Harvard University Professor of Biological Sciences, Dan Lieberman. If you’ve heard of Dan it will probably be in connection with his work around whether we are born to run, i.e. that a number of specific evolutionary adaptations that we as a species have acquired over time have enabled us to be really rather good at running for long distances. This hinted that our survival was aided by our ability to hunt by wearing animals down, known as the persistence hunting. 

Dan has a new book out called Exercised, which as Dan explains is cutely entitled because so many people are so exercised about exercise, I expect you can think of many people that have opinions that are so specific and adamant that one way is the best way. The book takes a broader view, reminding us of our biological origins, why we do sports and exercise, what we’re good and not so good at and Dan takes aim at a few current myths like sitting being the new smoking, step counts and how much exercise is enough – in so doing Dan widens our perspective to a healthier, compassionate view of physical activity.

Show notes:

  • Pigs on treadmills.
  • Research trip to Sierra and finding an older equivalent of the Ironman
  • Exercise is abnormal, if just for the sake of health and fitness
  • Why the Tarahumara Native Americans are famous for their long distance running
  • No-one evolved to run as fast as possible from A to B 
  • We have become exercised about exercise
  • Is there an optimal form of exercise?
  • Running fast
  • Proactive aggression
  • The benefits of endurance as hunter gatherers and the feats we care about most now are more recent in our history


Website for Dan’s new book

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