Endless Forms Seminar Series
14 Feb 2023
"Why is Exercise Weird but Healthy? The Active Grandparent Hypothesis "
Almost everyone knows that physical activity is healthy, but there is less awareness of the extent to which lifelong physical activity —particularly during middle and older age— promotes health. We also lack an ultimate, evolutionary explanation for why humans are less likely to remain healthy as they age in the absence of regular physical activity including its modern manifestation, exercise: discretionary physical activity undertaken for the sake of health and fitness. Here I show that humans were selected to be more physically active than other apes throughout our unusually long lifespans, including the several decades after we cease reproducing. I then propose and review how metabolic and physiological stresses induced by physical activity promoted selection to allocate energy away from harmful overinvestments in fat storage and reproductive tissues and towards repair and maintenance processes that slow senescence and reduce vulnerability to many forms of chronic diseases. As a result, extended human health spans, hence lifespans, are both a cause and consequence of habitual physical activity, helping explain why lack of lifelong physical activity can increase disease risk and reduce longevity. I will conclude by considering how an evolutionary anthropological perspective on physical activity can help encourage more people to exercise without being exercised about it.
The recording of this seminar can be found on our YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3PpDIq1oxf4