By Coach Mike Flanagan
We’re social creatures. While it’s true that we “never evolved to exercise,” in the sense of exercising as “voluntary physical activity for the sake of health and fitness,” Lieberman also points out that we did evolve “to be physically active when it was . . . socially rewarding.” Exercising in groups, in other words, is inherently more fun, and therefore taps into motivators that long sessions on a treadmill will not.
We’re less likely to break promises to others than ones we make to ourselves. Lieberman argues that we evolved to move and to be active when it was necessary, and even if we’re no longer living as hunter-gatherers, we can still tap into that sense of necessity via communal obligation. In my case, I can go for a jog any time that I want, but that means “any time” can just as soon become “tomorrow,” “next week,” or “never.” But if I’ve reserved a slot for 8:30 class on Sunday, or to run with friends after work, my “someday/maybe” has become a social—and public—commitment, and one that I’m much less likely to break.
Even a little goes a long way. According to Lieberman, “Dose response curves show that just 150 minutes of exercise a week — only 21 minutes a day — lowers mortality rates by about 50 percent.” And he also suggests that “a mix of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, strength training and high-intensity interval training . . . is probably the best bet for most of us.” That’s just 2-3 classes a week, with a bit of “active recovery” and light aerobic work in between. Not enough for the CrossFit Games, to be sure, but plenty to keep you on a path towards health.