Meander, Mosey, Stroll, and Saunter! (Excerpt from The Paleo Coach)

Here’s another short excerpt from the The Paleo Coach for you to enjoy until the release date of  March 5th! This excerpt is taken from the beginning of the section on exercise.  I hope you enjoy it!  The book is available for pre-order here on Amazon!

There are a few modalities of exercise that are indispensable. They are often overlooked, avoided, or underrated. One is walking. The first thing all beginning exercisers should do is increase the total amount of walking and low-intensity movement they do every day. This is especially true if you are a typical citizen of the Western world and the majority of your movement is to migrate yourself to another place to sit. I am not talking about strenuous exercise that leaves you tired and out of breath: I am referring to the type of physical activity that would have been your day to day routine if you sustained yourself by hunting and gathering.

If I show virtually anyone a picture of a lean, well-muscled hunter-gatherer and ask why that physique is the norm for people who live that way, I am invariably told that life is really hard for them and constant strenuous exercise keeps the fat off. This hypothesis is understandable considering the fact that so many of us have been sold on the notion that total hours spent exercising translates directly into total calories “burned,” which translates into total fat loss. By that logic, more exercise is always better, so hunter-gatherers must live a very physically demanding life for obesity to be so rare among them. In reality, many anthropologists tell us that typical hunter-gatherers “work” an average of fifteen to twenty hours a week, with “work” consisting of a lot of walking.

According to anthropologist Frank Marlowe, who studied the Hadza people, modern-day hunter-gatherers in Tanzania, the women walk an average of just under three and a half miles per foray and men an average of just over five miles per day in their quest for food. Then there is the time spent performing other tasks, like gathering firewood and water. Therefore, even though they do not spend as many hours working as we do, they spend a lot more time engaged in low-intensity physical activity than most of us.

I am not suggesting that we all quit our jobs and head into the woods to scare up food every morning, but we cannot use our bodies in a manner so diametrically opposed to the way nature intended us to use them and expect to suffer no consequences. If a lot of low-intensity movement was required for survival for a couple of million years, our bodies became adapted to that movement. The negative impact of our huge reduction in low-intensity movement is not powerful enough to, say, render us infertile or kill us before we can reproduce; we are simply getting sick and dying before we should.  No, I am not implying that walking is the cure for Western diseases or that not walking is the cause of all that ails us, but it is certainly another example of how ill-adapted our bodies are to the modern world we live in.

Maybe you already have a job that allows you to move around all day. If so, good for you. If not, get moving as often as you can each day. On the days when you can make the time, get out there and walk for half an hour or more. On busy days, one brisk ten-minute walk is a far cry better than nothing, and two or three such walks whenever you can fit them in would be fantastic. Walking is perhaps the one activity about which you can say that more is always better: some walking is better than none, and you really can’t walk too much unless it causes you to miss a lot of meals or PTA meetings. There is also no need to huff and puff. If you can’t hold a conversation while you walk, you are pushing yourself too hard. I’m not going to tell you exactly how much you should walk each week: just walk whenever you can, understanding that that means when you have time, not when you feel like it.

This is also perhaps the only activity for which tricks and gimmicks really work: parking farther away from the store is a great way to put in some extra pedi-miles; taking the stairs instead of the elevator is another great
way to squeeze a little extra exercise into your day. If the weather where you live does not always cooperate, it’s fine to jump on the treadmill. In fact, you can do almost anything that would be classified as “cardio,” as long as it is done at approximately the same effort as walking. Faster is not better! (More on that in a moment.)

Once you are healthy and fit, walking will not feel like work, which is probably why it is ignored by so many people, including trainers, as a viable and necessary means of exercise. I really don’t care how it’s labeled as long as it gets done. If you are an athlete in impeccable physical condition, you should still find time to walk. If holding this book is the maximum amount of exercise you have done in years, walking is a great place to begin moving again. Make the time to get up and walk as if your life depends on it—because it just might.


  1. says

    This is great Jason! Walking is the easy and free yet I seem to sometimes find myself laying down to sleep knowing that I’ve probably barely walked at all during the day. You’re inspiring me and I think I’m going to park REALLY far away from the door at work for the rest of the week. Also, I must say that I’m ready for this daylight savings thing to be over. I need more daylight at night for walking outside.

  2. Amy says

    This is great! I’m lucky enough to live in a very walkable city (Seattle) and live just 2 miles from my office. I was talking to and from work here and there but have recently decided to make my feet my main mode of transportation. I’ve walked to work and all over the city on the weekends almost every day for the last 2 weeks and I feel amazing!! The key- a good pair of minimalist shoes :)

  3. says

    Hi Jason! I think one of the things I most love about the kind of active “vacations” I take is how my days are basically nothing but walking or hiking. There is something so wonderful about being able to use my body to cover distances people will travel usually by metro or car (or avoid)! I not only feel physically vital but everything looks better, endorphins are firing, things come into better perspective, and I’m proud of myself for doing something so true to my nature and yet increasingly rare in our society. Inevitably when I get back from vacation I’m just bummed to sit at my desk and not move for hours (which I regret to admit is my tendency).

    It’s kind of funny but as much as I live in a gorgeous area, I’m not a fan of walking for the sake of walking; it seems boring. But purposeful walking – to get to a place, to explore, even when it’s a long 15km hike or 75 New York City blocks – is just FUN! Moving more throughout my normal day is definitely a priority. No wonder I get to the gym and my hip flexors are complaining!

    Can’t wait for your book and to meet you in Austin! :-)

  4. Ray says

    I can relate. During the summer I spend 5 to 8 hours a day walking around construction zones. I lost about 35 pounds from May to Late August. Then back to the office and fat loss slowed to a crawl. However I did stop consistent exercise, which I knew would slow things down. I am spending more time with daily movement now and am looking forward to this next summer.

  5. Laura says

    Did you write this book specifically for me? lol Every excerpt you guys have shared has been something I’m concerned/considering and the answers you provide make so much sense! Can’t wait to read the full book – it is one of the few seems to explain things in a way that makes sense to me.

    Walking is great – as a desk bound worker, I miss having the chance to move more in my day to day life. I now live on a farm, so I spend at least an hour every evening walking around and doing chores outside. It makes a difference in my mood as well!

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