The myth-busting science behind our modern attitudes to exercise: what our bodies really need, why it matters, and its effects on health and wellbeing.
In industrialized nations, our sedentary lifestyles have contributed to skyrocketing rates of obesity and diseases like diabetes. A key remedy, we are told, is exercise – voluntary physical activity for the sake of health. However, most of us struggle to stay fit, and our attitudes to exercise are plagued by misconceptions, finger-pointing and anxiety.
But, as Daniel Lieberman shows in Exercised, the first book of its kind by a leading scientific expert, we never evolved to exercise. We are hardwired for moderate exertion throughout each day, not triathlons or treadmills. Drawing on over a decade of high-level scientific research and eye-opening insights from evolutionary biology and anthropology, Lieberman explains precisely how exercise can promote health; debunks persistent myths about sitting, speed, strength and endurance; and points the way towards more enjoyable and physically active living in the modern world.
Daniel Lieberman is Edwin M. Lerner II Professor of Biological Sciences and a professor of the Department of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University. He is a leading figure in the field of human evolution and its relevance to health. He is renowned for his research on the evolution of running, which he also enjoys himself – sometimes barefoot, earning him the nickname 'the Barefoot Professor'. He has published over 150 peer-reviewed articles, many of them in Nature and Science. His previous books include The Story of the Human Body. He lives in Massachusetts.
"Endlessly fascinating and full of surprises. Easily one of my books of the year"
– Bill Bryson
"Myth-busting, illuminating, brilliant – Lieberman will completely change the way you think about your body"
– Professor Alice Roberts, presenter of Our Incredible Human Journey
"Entertaining and informative [...] The book is full of helpful tips – you'll build muscle faster by extending muscles under load rather than contracting them; the kind of chair you sit on doesn't matter as long as you strengthen your back muscles and move regularly – conveyed in a humorous and sympathetic style"
– Steven Poole, Guardian
"Part user manual for the human body and part detective story exploring our evolution, Exercised will change the way you think about exercise, diet and your own wellbeing"
– Neil Shubin, author of Your Inner Fish
"A surprising, erudite and revelatory look at the natural history of physical activity and why exercise is both so necessary for us and so unnatural. A must-read for anyone with a working body and mind"
– Gretchen Reynolds, New York Times-bestselling author of The First 20 Minutes
"A fascinating read, and one that could nudge you toward a healthier (and longer) life"
– Amby Burfoot, editor of Runner's World
"Excellent – well written, amusing and touching on the lives of all who read it"
– Richard Leakey, FRS