New Research on Old Way of Life

The University of Arizona campus is a long way from the plains of East Africa. But a new study headed by a UA anthropologist uses modern day hunter-gatherers in Tanzania to highlight the importance of exercise. hadzabe_hunters

From Arizona Public Media:

One hunter-gatherer group in Tanzania has a low risk of heart disease, and it’s because of their lifestyle, University of Arizona research shows.

The intensity and duration of physical activity of the Hadza people in the East African country has given researchers more evidence regarding the connections between physical activity and heart health.

UA anthropologist David Raichlen and colleagues from Yale University and Hunter College have been studying the group for several years. The researchers wanted to reconstruct physical activity patterns during human physiological evolution to understand why physical activity and exercise improve human health today.

KJZZ Radio in Phoenix quoted Raichlen as saying, “Hunter-gatherers engage in a pretty large amount of physical activity, something on the order of 14 times as much physical activity as we do in more industrialized societies.”

The researchers put heart rate monitors on male hunters and female foragers to record the daily extent of their “moderate-to-vigorous physical activity.” They were also tested regularly for blood pressure and biomarkers of cardiovascular health, including cholesterol levels.


The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that people engage in 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity activity — about 30 minutes a day, five times a week — or about 75 minutes per week of vigorous intensity activity, or an equivalent combination of the two. However, few Americans achieve those levels.

The Hadza, on the other hand, meet those weekly recommendations in a mere two days, engaging in about 75 minutes per day of MVPA, researchers found.

The study found “no evidence of risk factors for cardiovascular disease in this population,” according to a report in The article went on to say – “The link between vigorous exercise and health is not new, said Raichlen, but this study was a rare opportunity to record and document it in a modern population that lives much like humans and their predecessor primates did for most of their 2 million years of evolution.”

While it’s unlikely we can match the level of exercise the modern day hunter-gatherers routinely get, do you think we can use this new study to encourage better health in our state? Are there innovative ways to move Arizonans away from a sedentary lifestyle and toward a more active one? After all….the healthier we are – the closer we get to our long term goal of one day making Arizona the Healthiest State in the Nation!

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