Best way to achieve good heart health is to take a step back in time

Yes, I know I always go on about it. But we need to keep moving or our sedentary life will, not to put too fine a point on it, kill us.

The problem is, in our hunter-gatherer days, our bodies were “set” to be on the move. Evolution hasn’t had time to adjust to a life sitting still.

Our bodies, particularly our hearts, want to be worked and when they’re not, disease sets in.

Now a beautiful new research ­experiment proves my point.

In our affluent society, with food on every high street, we’ve created a ­fundamental mismatch between the environment that moulded our bodies and the obesogenic world we live in now.

There’s also been considerable research linking sedentary lifestyles with health problems but so far we haven’t really known how much physical activity may be natural for us.

So for the study, researchers from Yale University and the University of Arizona decided to examine a group of African hunter-gatherers.

The Hadza, a tribe in Tanzania, lives by hunting and foraging for roots, berries, honey and fruit.


As part of past research, the ­scientists measured the men’s and women’s blood pressurees, lipids and other markers of heart health.

They asked some of the tribespeople to wear heart-rate monitors. The ­scientists focused on heart rates because the simplest way to measure exercise intensity is with heart rate (HR).

At least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise, which raises the HR by half, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise raising the HR by three quarters, is what we should aim for.

Some 46 of the tribespeople, ranging in age from young adults to people in their 70s, agreed to participate, donning a chest strap for up to two weeks during different seasons of the year while they went about their daily lives.

The data showed they moved a lot, being active for more than two hours every day. The men would walk briskly to hunt most days. The women would find, dig up, care for and prepare fruits, vegetables and other foods.

The Hadza people have marvellous heart health, with low blood pressure and excellent cholesterol levels throughout their lives, well into old age.

The findings indicate the Hadza’s active lifestyle, with plenty of walking, lifting and generally being up and about and doing, helps to protect their hearts against disease.

So move – and preferably often, since the need for activity seems to be built into our bones, hearts and our very being.