The evolutionary fitness book written by Arthur DeVany got its roots more than 10,000 years ago. After studying our Paleolithic ancestors and their activity patterns, DeVany concluded that in terms of our genetic makeup, we’re still hunters and gatherers. Many scientists agree that our genetic makeup has developed and evolved over millions of years, and because biological evolution moves at a glacial pace, our genes have been largely unchanged over the last 10,000 years.
What DeVany calls Evolutionarily Elegant Design, economizes on processes and energy, which are dependable at the high and variable energy flows like that of our active ancestors, but go askew at the low energy slump typical of a modern, dormant individual. Many of the common metabolic disorders that plague society today, such as obesity or diabetes, are a result of these design compromises. These disorders are rare among hunter-gatherers and were not part of the human ancestral experience, but rather reflect an adaptation of the human body to modern life.
DeVany encourages the readers of his evolutionary fitness book to return to a lifestyle more reflective of our ancestors. His plan is outlined below:
One should consider food intake in the context of activity patterns, meaning your intake of calories should balance with your level of activity or the rate you’re burning calories.
To eat as your ancestors did your diet must contain an ample variety of fresh plant foods, with lots of amino acids and essential lipids and almost complete absence of grains and simple carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates like sugar and pasta didn’t exist in the evolutionary past. There were also no grain or cereal sources of carbohydrates in the ancestral diet, but enormous variety of plant foods and proteins.
Because human metabolism is conditional on activity patterns, diet alone is not sufficient to control body composition and health.
Inactivity and food deprivation are completely counterproductive in controlling obesity. Inactivity not only changes the human body, but alters the structure of our perception and understanding, weakening our body image, resulting in a lack of purpose and will.
Healthy activities mimic the patterns of wild animals, such as what our ancestors hunted, and contain elements of both chaos and order – high-intensity spurts divided by periods of rest.
What does DeVany suggest? Variety is key, he says. Intermittent, intense workouts in brief bursts, alternating sets of weight training with cardio, reminiscent of circuit training. He says this type of routine builds muscle and bone density, keeping our bodies young and lean.
He recommends beginners start with three sessions per week, not lasting more than 40 minutes a session. In addition to sessions at the gym, he suggests adding other activities that vary in intensity and duration, such as walk/sprint intervals – especially effective on hills, stretching and lengthening exercises focused on elongating, grace and symmetry, tennis, or basketball.
So, you might call the approach in the evolutionary fitness book “getting back to basics”.