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laziness is normal

Updated: Apr 2

One of the things that I hear from folks quite often is that they find it hard to get motivated to exercise. “I know I should, but it’s just so hard,” they say– often in an embarrassed tone.”

It’s important to understand that our species did not evolve by “exercising.” While we often think of exercise as something that must be done in order to achieve health, happiness and social standing, the truth is that our ancestors didn’t exercise at all.

Sure, our hunt-and-gather forebears had to forage to find their food, but how intense was this movement? Based on anthropological studies of (the few remaining) indigenous groups that live a hunt-and-gather way of life show, hunting-and-gathering actually only takes a few hours a day. It’s done at a reasonably slow pace and may even include seated time (digging up tubers in a casual way, for example). Once the food is gathered, these folks enjoy time sitting and resting.

“Despite stereotypes of non-exercisers as lazy couch potatoes, it is deeply and profoundly normal to avoid unnecessarily wasting energy. Rather than blame and shame each other for taking the escalator, we’d do better to recognize that our tendencies to avoid exertion are ancient instincts that make total sense from an evolutionary perspective.” -Daniel E. Lieberman, “Exercised: Why Something We Never Evolved to Do is Healthy and Rewarding.”

The truth is that humans evolved by being very, very efficient with their energy. Consider for a moment that calories for our ancestors were a more precious commodity. When we weren’t using energy to perform necessary tasks (food, shelter, socialization, sex), it makes sense that they would do as little as possible. So, rest easy– literally. It’s really normal that you don’t want to exert unnecessary energy. That drive you feel to sit on the couch and do nothing is a very deep instinct. You’re not lazy, you’re just human!

For many of us, calories are easy to come by. Contemporary hunting-and-gathering involves a car trip to a grocery store, where we park as close to the entrance as we can. However, our bodies are designed to function more optimally when we’re getting a certain amount of movement; all of the systems of our body rely on movement in order to stay healthy.

The concept of exercise is a modern answer to our modern problem of not moving functionally as much as our bodies used to do.T We go to the gym, get on our treadmill, or roll out a mat, and spend an hour sweating in ways that our ancestors couldn’t possibly have imagined.

That’s great if you’re the kind of person that really enjoys those things– maybe you like the endorphins, or the socialization aspec