A few kilometres of running, 8km of fast walking, some overhead stretching and deep squats - that's maybe an average day for our human ancestors living on the African savannah. It's an exercise load our bodies were designed for.
Today, in the modern world, the human body faces a challenge we're not designed for - sedentary living. Rather than worrying about big cats with sharp teeth, we need to worry about how much time we spend sitting in a chair.
While pills, operations, vaccines and plentiful calories have increased life expectancies over the past 150 years, reduced daily movement is unnecessarily affecting the quality of life for many, particularly in old age.
Vybarr Cregan-Reid, himself a runner (often barefooted), advocates in his book Primate Change (2018) that to live healthier and longer, we should try to emulate our earlier selves. And there's mounting scientific evidence to back up this claim.
Drawing from his book, available at the Whangārei Library, here are five recommendations for living a little more like a hunter-gatherer.
Many of our aches and pains, particularly in our backs and knees, result from our feet not being allowed to do the job they were intended to do.
In some ways, our feet are more conscious of what our bodies need than our brain is. The finely integrated combination of bones, muscles and soft tissue sends messages about terrain and loading to the rest of the leg and spine. Going barefoot helps train muscles, ligaments and bones further up the body to work how they were meant to. Keeping your foot in a comfy shoe all day is doing more harm than good.
There's also evidence that walking barefoot on grass, on sand, through mud - as our hunter-gatherer ancestors would have - helps us feel better.
Experiencing the world through our feet helps us get in touch with nature. A proven healer every time.
Our bodies are made to run. Our hips swivel side to side in our natural running gait. Our head position and spine shape enable us to run without losing balance. Our joints are designed to absorb impact.
While we're not the fastest animal over a short distance, we're formidable over longer distances. This is because our bodies evolved on the African savannah to carry out what is called persistence hunting. Which basically involved jogging steadily for long distances after an animal until it collapsed from heat exhaustion.
Our upright stature means 30 per cent less sun hits our bodies compared to your average quadruped. We also have another unique attribute for hunting under African skies: we sweat profusely to help us cool.
The evidence for the modern benefits of running is stacking up. Apart from aerobic fitness, which has many health benefits, running in light shoes or barefoot strengthens knees and spines. It stimulates the production of more liquid in our joints, which helps cartilages work better.
Regular running will, over time, and provided you don't leave it too late, reduce knee and back problems.
It's estimated that early humans travelled 8-14km on their feet every day.
The rural people living in the hills of Sardinia today have one of the highest life expectancies in the world.
This is put down partly to the fact every day they walk distances similar to those of historic hunter-gatherers. Up and down steep paths to town and work, or to visit friends and family.
To live like a hunter-gatherer, or a rural-dwelling Sardinian, walk, walk and walk.
Housework and gardening
There weren't many labour-saving devices back in our prehistory. Everyday "housework" would have included gathering firewood, tending fires, food preparation, clothes making, toolmaking, and caring for the sick, young and old. On top of the hunting, tuber digging and berry picking.
All of which would have involved a lot of up and down, stretching and bending. Nature has a basic rule: it doesn't devote energy resources to something that's not being used. So when we don't move much, the body concludes that it doesn't need long ligaments, so they shorten. We become less flexible.
Many people swear by yoga, tai chi and other low-impact exercise regimes that stretch the body and lengthen ligaments.
I doubt hunter-gatherers engaged in this kind of thing. They kept their bodies supple from doing stuff.
We could do ourselves a favour by hanging washing on a line, not putting in a dryer. Pulling weeds and grass from the fence line rather than using a weedeater.
Housework and gardening are one way we can bring more and varied movement in our day. Our goal shouldn't be to "spray and walk away" (unless we're going on a 10k hike).
Our ancestors probably didn't eat as regularly as we do. So their bodies evolved to go without food for periods of time.
Our bodies have the same potential, and evidence is mounting that fasting is good for us.
Clinical observation of fasting (for as little as 16 hours) has identified improvements in mood, greater alertness and feelings of tranquillity.
Fasting slows cell turnover, reduces inflammation in the brain and gut, improves arthritis symptoms, offers relief to asthma sufferers, reduces the resting heart rate, lowers blood pressure and improves stress resistance. As well as being an effective way to lose weight.
That's an impressive list.
Emulating, where we can, the life of free-walking hunter-gatherers is something to keep in mind on a daily basis.
When considering our health and wellbeing, it's a good idea to know who we are and where we come from.