Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Insert Required Springsteen Reference

Apparently, we were born to run.*  Fun piece at NYT that displays the new science of running--that humans can outrun (not out-spring) all other mammals--sweating it out is better than panting.

Why would evolution favor the distance runner? The prevailing theory is that endurance running allowed primitive humans to incorporate meat into their diet. They may have watched the sky for scavenging birds and then run long distances to reach a fresh kill and steal the meat from whatever animal was there first.  Other research suggests that before the development of slingshots or bows, early hunters engaged in persistence hunting, chasing an animal for hours until it overheated, making it easy to kill at close range
 Persistence hunting?  Good thing we have grocery stores today, as the only thing we are persistent in hunting is a parking spot close to a store or mall entrance.

Other evolutionary advantages of humans for running are:
  • short toes, straight big toes
  • relatively hairless (again for cooling)
  • "springlike ligaments and tendons in the feet and legs are crucial for running. (Our close relatives the chimpanzee and the ape don’t have them.)
  • "A narrow waist and a midsection that can turn allow us to swing our arms and prevent us from zigzagging on the trail. 
  • "Humans also have a far more developed sense of balance, an advantage that keeps the head stable as we run. 
  • And most humans can store about 20 miles’ worth of glycogen in their muscles.
and most amusingly of all:
And the gluteus maximus, the largest muscle in the human body, is primarily engaged only during running. “Your butt is a running muscle; you barely use it when you walk,” Dr. Lieberman said.
No wonder I enjoy playing mixed (co-ed) ultimate!

* Sorry, Steve G., embedding disabled.

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