(NaturalNews) Two recent studies looking at the human frame and how it has withered significantly over the years provide some fascinating insights into the tremendous impact that physical activity has on human health. The ancient man, it turns out, was stronger, bigger, faster and probably much healthier than today's man, the direct result of modern society's mechanization of the labors of output, including industrialized agriculture.
Researchers from the U.K., after unearthing the remains of believed-to-be human ancestors who lived many thousands of years ago, noticed that human bone structures have gotten progressively smaller throughout the centuries. The hunters and gatherers of old essentially had thicker and stronger bones, particularly in their legs, which if we saw them today might even make the most fit Olympic athletes look frail.
"Even our most highly trained athletes pale in comparison to these ancestors of ours," stated Dr. Colin Shaw of Cambridge University's Phenotypic Adaptability, Variation and Evolution Research Group. "We're certainly weaker than we used to be."
Dr. Shaw published a study earlier this year in the Journal of Human Evolution that focused on the mobility of late Pleistocene men and women, who lived at least 12,000 years ago. Fossilized bones believed to have come from this time period were collected from various parts of the world and analyzed in terms of rigidity and size.
Compared to the bone structures of today's men and women, these ancient skeletal remains were observed to be both larger and stronger, probably due to the hunting and gathering techniques that were required at the time in order to eat. Long before the days of structured farming, humans had to run very long distances daily to collect food, not to mention have the ability to use heavy tools to capture it.
"We do much, much less than our ancestors, and our skeletons reflect this decrease in activity," said Robb Wolf, author of The Paleo Solution, as quoted by OutsideOnline.com.
Modern farming techniques have made people lazier, weaker
Dr. Shaw's study coincides with another one recently published by one of his colleagues, Alison Macintosh. Her paper, entitled "From athletes to couch potatoes: Humans through 6,000 years of farming," addresses the advent of industrialized farming, which she says changed everything. When hunter-gatherer societies switched to structured agriculture, the human frame took a huge hit.
After analyzing skeletal remains gathered from a more recent time period between 5300 BC and 850 AD, Macintosh and her colleagues compared their density and size to the bones of undergraduates attending Cambridge University today. Not only has the average skeletal frame shrunk in size since that time, but it has also become weaker and less rigid.
"The average U.S. citizen is considerably less fit than the average hunter-gatherer or forager," stated Dr. Loren Cordain, a professor emeritus of health and exercise science at Colorado State University and author of the book The Paleo Diet. Based on these two studies, the average male farmer 7,300 years ago was as fit as a cross-country runner today.
"The lesson to be learned is not from early farmers and their dietary and exercise patterns, but rather from our hunter-gatherer ancestors and their dietary and exercise patterns. These examples represent the norms for our species and the environmental experiences which conditioned our genome," she added.
The hunters and gatherers of old are also believed to have consumed a much different diet than the average person today. Instead of heavy amounts of carbohydrates and sugar, the Paleolithic diet, which today has become something of a fad, was composed primarily of healthy fats, meat-based proteins and carbohydrates from plant-based sources rather than grains.