Have you ever watched the television show Mountain Men? My favorite guy on the show is an old fella named Tom Oar who lives in Northern Montana. It’s been a cold winter in Montana and Tom’s meat stock is low so he sets out on a hunt for deer. To use as much of the animal as possible, he hunts with a bow and arrow. A rifle, he explains, destroys much of the meat. What isn’t blown apart is tainted. An arrow, he says, if shot correctly, kills as quickly and makes the entire animal usable. I’m not a hunter but find this attitude refreshing compared to people I know who hunt elk or antelope with high-powered rifles from a mile away. On the day of the hunt, Tom drives to a trail head, loads up his pack, and walks into the woods looking for deer. There is fresh snow so he is able to follow tracks. He finally comes upon a group of does and tracks them for a mile until he spots a buck. (Just like humans – when there are fertile females around, a stag won’t be far behind.) He approaches the buck, takes his shot, and then tracks the animal until he finds it dead. He throws the two hundred pound animal over his back and hikes it out to the truck. He ends the day at home butchering the deer in the dark as the temperature drops to sub-zero. How many seventy-somethings could keep up with this pace?
There is something deeply appealing to me about this. Tom isn’t doing burpees or fretting about whether or not his protein supplement is bleached or not. He is simply living. Life keeps his body strong. He gathers and chops wood. He trudges through a few miles of snow in shoe shoes. He probably sleeps like a rock. Evolutionary psychologists refer to the EEA: the Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness. There is controversy about specifics of the human EEA but it certainly includes many of the tasks that make up Tom’s day. His waking time, just like our ancestors, is spent working and burning calories – it’s easy to see why the body wants to hold on to fat.
I Exercise Because I Must
I exercise because I don’t live this way. I spend my working day in an ergonomically adjusted chair at a desk with no sharp edges. I force myself to get up to talk to people rather than send instant-messages all day. I buy fattened cow at the grocery store where they give away free cookies just for walking through the doors that open by themselves. We prefer clean and healthy food but our schedules often make it easiest to cook up something from a box that is laden with fat, salt, and sugar. Nothing in my evolutionary past has prepared my body for this onslaught of luxury.
Researchers are learning that small doses of activity add up through the day. Taking the stairs, walking from the other end of the parking lot, and drinking a water instead of a soda all add up to increased health. Increased health leads to a better attitude that leads to a better and longer life.
So chop some wood or track a deer if you get a chance. If not, then at least take the stairs. It all adds up.