Human History is Active


This illustrates how humans structured their day for the majority of the existence of the species.  Agriculture and industry added more work hours, and perhaps increased physical activity further.  Today, we still have longer work hours, but over the past 50 years in particular, our physical activity has dwindled.  Despite all the scary statistics, there are simple ways we can improve, and what we learn in a yoga class can help us.

Here’s where I pulled this information together – there are tons of books on the subject:


“Like other animals, we must spend a large part of our existence making a living: calories needed to fuel the body don’t appear magically on the table, and houses and cars don’t assemble themselves spontaneously.  There are no strict formulas, however, for how much time people actually have to work.  It seems, for instance, that the early hunter-gatherers, like their present-day descendants living in the inhospitable deserts of Africa and Australia, spent only three to five hours each day on what we would call working- providing for food, shelter, clothing, and tools.  They spent the rest of the day in conversation, resting, or dancing.  At the opposite extreme were the industrial workers of the nineteenth century, who were often forced to spend twelve-hour days, six days a week, toiling in grim factories or dangerous mines.”
Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, page 143

“The most obvious, immediate conclusion is that the people do not work hard. The average length of time per person per day put into the appropriation and preparation of food was four or five hours. Moreover, they do not work continuously. The subsistence quest was highly intermittent. It would stop for the time being when the people had procured enough for the time being. which left them plenty of time to spare. Clearly in subsistence as in other sectors of production, we have to do with an economy of specific, limited objectives. By hunting and gathering these objectives are apt to be irregularly accomplished, so the work pattern becomes correspondingly erratic.”

Sahlins, Marshall.  The Original Affluent Society.

Available online:


“Our results indicate that active, “traditional” lifestyles may not protect against obesity if diets change to promote increased caloric consumption. Thus, efforts to supplement diets of healthy populations in developing regions must avoid inundating these individuals with highly-processed, energy-dense but nutrient-poor foods.”

Hunter-Gatherer Energetics and Human Obesity
Pontzer H, Raichlen DA, Wood BM, Mabulla AZP, Racette SB, et al. (2012) Hunter-Gatherer Energetics and Human Obesity. PLoS ONE 7(7): e40503.doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0040503

NYT article about study


For More, I’d also suggest:

Pandora’s Seed: Why the Hunter-Gatherer Holds the Key to Our Survival by Spencer Wells