You Are Born to Sprint, Not Run

Dr. Daniel Lieberman, a Harvard professor of evolutionary biology and an avid runner, recently published a study that concluded that running barefoot is more healthy for you than using running shoes. And while I agree with the barefoot part, I’m not too convinced about this part of Dr. Lieberman’s beliefs:

Lieberman has looked at the evolution of long-distance running; 2 million years ago our pre-human ancestors used that approach to wear out prey during prolonged hunts.

Many people – especially hardcore marathoners and long distance triathletes – misunderstand my views on running. I am not anti-running or anti-endurance activities. I am, however, strongly critical of a health/fitness industry that overemphasizes heavy endurance training as a way to optimal health.

And I am especially critical whenever I read some body of work alluding to the belief that humans somehow evolved as marathon runners (In fact, if you want a good counterpoint to the “persistence hunter” argument, be sure to check out Mark Sisson’s great piece, Did Humans Evolve to Be Long-Distance Runners?)

The bottom line is that heavy marathon and endurance training takes a pretty hefty toll on the human body – especially if that’s all the exercise you do. Granted, it’s better than being sedentary, but there’s a lot of evidence indicating that there’s a point of rapidly diminishing returns involved with endurance training.

And, unfortunately, and many people far exceed this point.


  1. Chris
    January 30, 2010

    Checking out this new read that can revolutionize the way we understand proper exercise. ….and the myths expelled on the population over the last 30 years…Body by Science, author Doug McGuff M.D.

  2. srhernan
    January 27, 2010

    Hi Chris. Thanks for the comment and link. I just checked it out, and the study certainly creates quite a compelling argument against marathons. I’ll be sure to pass it along to all my Chicago marathon friends who still insist on drinking the “more running = more health” Kool Aid (Gatorade?).

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