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You don't move enough! Look to Stonehenge for clues

Do you think you could walk 100 miles? How about 200 or more? Could you do that carrying clothes, food, and shelter? How about doing this in the middle of winter? Could you even walk 20 miles without serious physical repercussions? Our ancestors were not only capable of this, but many of them did it on a regular basis. I recently watched a program on the Smithsonian Channel about the prehistoric visitors and builders of Stonehenge, near Salisbury in Southwest England - Stonehenge Program. Stonehenge was built over 4000 years ago and people were visiting the site of Stonehenge at least 1000 or more years before that. (I visited Stonehenge in 1992 on a trip to England and it was a fascinating place). Modern Scientists at Stonehenge have used forensic anthropology, chemical analysis such as carbon dating, genetic testing and other techniques to discover amazing details about these neolithic people.

Stonehenge was a ritual burial site where people from all over England came to bury the cremated remains of loved ones. Scientists have determined the people came from Wales and many other further locations by foot in the months leading up to the winter solstice each year. They brought their own livestock (mostly pigs), all the clothes and tools they needed, as well as the previously mentioned cremated human remains. Later on, the "stones" of Stonehenge were quarried and the structures we now know werre built both as markers for the dead as well as a monument to visually frame the winter solstice sunset and summer solstice sunrise.

According to scientists, these travelers to and builders of Stonehenge were intelligent, healthy in terms of known diseases, and quite physically active. They apparently ate quite well, feasting on many thousands of pigs each year, as well as other meats, various cereals, and fresh water. Many hundreds and thousands of people apparently traveled from near and far each winter. As we know, there was no British Airways, no BritRail, no cars, not even Uber! These people walked wherever they went and they engaged in some heavy lifting as well(tree trunks used for funeral pyres and living structures, as well as the physical labor that must've gone into building the Stonehenge structure). I doubt one in one hundred modern humans could handle these challenging physical tasks. However, these neolithic Englanders did so and thrived for thousands of years.

To me, the most interesting point of everything we have learned about these early people is modern humans share much of the same genetic code(recent genetic testing of remains shows that these early inhabitants of England were actually olive skinned and descended from central Europeans - most similar genetically to modern Sardinians; however, all humans have more than 99% of our genes in common). We have evolved from these ancestors with the same physical capacity they had - the capacity to move much more than we do, to lift much more, and to spend more time outdoors than most of us even think about. As homosapiens evolved over hundreds of thousands of years living outdoors, moving constantly at low intensity, occasionally straining their musculature by lifting heavy things, we adapted genetically to thrive in such an environment.

It makes sense that these neolithic humans thrived in England 5000 years ago because their lifestyle was in tune with their genetics. It would also stand to reason that we modern humans would thrive more by emulating some practices of the ancient people of Stonehenge. I am not talking about recreating a late stone age lifestyle (ex. living outdoors, killing your dinner, no modern medical care, etc. ) However, if you want to feel great every day, have mental clarity and physical energy, sleep well, be capable of all you would like to do, then you should follow in the footsteps of our ancestors.

How do you do this? You have to move about much more. How much? There is no set answer, but I would say walking 2-4 miles a day is a good starting point. Do you think that is too time consuming? Think again! What is time (and money) consuming is spending time in a Doctor's office for diabetes, a heart condition, or obesity related issues. What is time consuming is being incapacitated by being overweight or out of shape. Not to mention the fact that many of these conditions can take years off your life. If you want to get some of your daily movement to be through golf, or tennis, or biking or swimming, or playing frisbee, or hiking, that is great. The point is daily movement is both necessary and ideal.

In addition to moving more, there are a few other practices you must incorporate in order to thrive. You have to sit less. If you work a desk job, alternate standing with sitting. Watch less TV and video games. Also, you need to strain your muscles once or twice per week. Why? There are a variety of physiological benefits you get from lifting heavy things that you can not get from general low level movement. You have to eat moderate amounts of real food. Finally, you have to sleep more. Ancient humans likely slept from soon after the sun went down to just before sunrise, in tune with their natural circadian rhythms.

The prehistoric people who built and traveled to Stonehenge were quite amazing people. While I am sure they struggled for survival like most humans throughout most of history, they also lived in accordance with their genetic makeup and as a result they were strong, healthy and very productive humans. In the long history of humanity, modern mostly sedentary, largely indoor living has been just a blip of time. Our genetic code is ill-suited to modern living. Learn from these ancestors as you plan your daily activities and your lifestyle. With a bit of tweaking, you can maximize your stone-age genetics and at the same time enjoy the comforts and conveniences of the modern world.

Posted July 12, 2018 by Tim Rankin