This week, I’d like to share with you a really cool documentary that I just watched, called The Perfect Runner, on The Nature Of Things by David Suzuki.  I think it gives a very real context to the obesity endemic that we currently face.

The Perfect Runner is about the bipedal (walking on 2 feet) nature of humans, and the contrast to most other land animals who walk on 4 feet.  They describe how humans are very unique in that we were designed for endurance running, whereas most other animals were designed for sprints.  They show video footage of the last of ‘persistence hunters’ in the world, essentially, humans who hunt animals by chasing them, and catching them successfully – it’s true!

This is how persistence hunting works:  Running creates heat generated from muscle energy, and the only way that an animal can release this heat is by panting.  Thus, after a sprint, the animal’s body temperature starts to climb, and they have to stop to allow themselves to cool off again.  However, if they are chased long enough, there is not enough time for them to cool off between sprint burts.  Contrast this with humans – we are able to sweat, so we can keep our body temperature the same while we run, and therefore, we can run for much longer periods without having to stop.

So, the persistence hunter basically jogs after the animal for hours, and ultimately it gets such a high body temperature from the repeated sprinting without having enough time to cool off, that it just stands there and watches while the jogging human throws spears at it from a few feet away.  Pretty powerful stuff.  Scientists believe that we were all persistence hunters in the past, until we invented tools and arms that allowed us to hunt from a distance, with progressively less effort involved to catch our prey.  (Fast forward to the current time, where Homo sapiens can often be spotted in the wild, catching our prey at a drive through window.)

What this documentary really impressed upon me was just how different our current environment is, compared to how we were meant to live.  We were evolutionarily designed to exercise for hours on end to chase our food, and now we not only don’t have to chase our food, but we don’t have to move much at all in our daily activities of life if we don’t make a conscious choice to do so.

Our toxic environment is perhaps the most formidable opponent that humankind has ever encountered.

Dr Sue Pedersen © 2013 

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