So now that we know a little about what made Cavemen so fit, it’s time to focus on ways we can incorporate these principles into modern life. You could go out and try to mimic the behaviors verbatim, but come on, that would look and feel a little silly, don’t you think? Instead, I’m going to share with you some easy and more ‘modern’ ways to get some exercise in. First off though, why do so many people fret about getting exercise? For many, I think it carries this connotation of “work”.  Paleo exercise should be fun and engaging. It should have a lot of variety so you don’t get bored or burnt out. It does not require going to gyms, running around tracks, or using elliptical machines. It does require you to get up off your butt and make a little effort though. Keep in mind I’m not a trainer. I’m simply a moderately successful amateur athlete and a pretty healthy guy. What I’m going to share with you is solid anecdotal advice and I hope you find it useful for your situation.

Primal Law #3 Move Around A Lot at a Slow Pace

This seems pretty self explanatory, but just so we’re clear, it’s best to give a definition of “slow pace”. On the most basic of levels, if whatever you are doing is causing you difficulty to talk because you’re breathing too hard, it’s not a slow pace. On the most complicated of levels, it’s any exercise that keeps your heart rate below 80% max. Walking, even if a little brisk is a slow pace. Jogging is not (except in special circumstances, see below). Thomas Jefferson once said “Walking is the best possible exercise. Habituate yourself to walk very far.” The man knew what he was talking about. Plain, simple walking has many benefits and hardly any risks.

What else can you do for low level cardio exercises? Well, for starters, try upgrading to ‘hiking’. All I mean by this is ‘walking’ in natural settings. Get off the road and onto the trail. Find some hills or mountains. Take it a step further and try backpacking. Now you’re adding some ‘play’ and ‘lift heavy things’ into the equation. Ride a bike. This is my favorite, of course, I just have to be careful not to go too hard for too long (races excluded, obviously). Go canoeing or learn to row. Get a job that requires you to be on your feet a lot. Go skiing or snowshoeing in the winter. Swim softly. There are tons of things you can do to fulfill this fitness law.

Primal Law #3.5 Avoid Chronic Cardio

The Intro section summed up why Chronic Cardio can actually be impeding your progress to lose weight or gain fitness. As a competitive mountain biker, I myself am guilty of breaking this law. It’s especially tough on group rides when machismo and adrenalin overcome specified training goals. In races 6 hours or less there’s just no way I can abide by it, or else I wouldn’t be in a ‘race’.  It’s alright to let it happen every now and then, just don’t let it become a habit or regiment, or else you will risk burnout of your adrenal and thyroid glands and accelerate aging.

*NOTE FOR ELITE ATHLETES* Some people actually do have the genetics and composition to exercise above the 80% threshold and not do any damage. Think of people like Lance Armstrong, Dean Karnazes, or Dave Scott. A moderate jog or bike ride for 2-3 hours is like a walk in the park for these guys. It is possible to be extra fit and straddle the line between aerobic and anaerobic. Don’t pretend to put yourself in this category if you know within that you aren’t. Stick with the Primal Laws of fitness and you’ll have all the benefits you need.

Primal Law #4 Lift Heavy Things

Tire workoutI’m not a big fan of gyms or exercise machines. I prefer to use freeweight objects such as rocks, trees, tires, or dumbbells to use for lifting. More than this though, I prefer simple bodyweight exercises. Pushups, pullups, dips, squats, lunges, etc. These exercises simulate natural body movements and skills needed in the wild anyways. They will develop functional strength, as opposed to ‘glamor’ strength. If done regularly though, you’ll still get nice muscle tone. When I’m in the mood to lift heavy things, I do it one of three ways. I just do it around the house in between tasks. 30 pushups here, 12 pullups there, maybe throw in some dips, whatever. If I’ve got time and want something a bit more intense but can’t make it to a park, I pull out one of the Program DVD’s in my arsenal and put in a good 30-60 minutes. Day 1 of the P90X program remains my all time favorite.  Lastly, if I’m lucky enough to be out in the wild, I do what I call a bush workout.  Ideally I’m some place that has a little of everything: topography, trees, rocks, and water. I can lift rocks, climb trees, practice leaping in rock/boulder gardens. The idea is to work everything, work it well, be creative, have fun, and enjoy being outside.

Primal Law #5 Sprint Once in a While

Sprint Once in a whileThere are a lot of options for sprinting. If you’re an athlete, you are probably already familiar with ‘intervals’ .For runners, sprinting is as easy as it gets. Do 100-400 meter sprints all out. Just catch your breath in between sprints. For cyclist, you can either find long flat stretches of road and sprint at maximum effort for 1-2 minutes or find some steep hills that take a few minutes to crest. For swimmers, sprint a lap or two, recover, do it a few more times. it’s not rocket science, just focus on putting in maximal effort during these exercises. Sprinting only needs to be done once a week to be effective, but if you really enjoy sprinting you can do it 3-5 times a week.  


{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

John King March 10, 2012 at 10:06 am

Awesome post… I especially like that you said, “but if you really enjoy sprinting you can do it 3-5 times a week.” I like to sprint hills, all out for 20-30 seconds. It fits it perfectly after a brief intense “lift heavy things workout”. Most people will warn you off against doing sprints more than once every 7-10 days. I think thats BS. Thanks again


IWantToBeFit April 8, 2012 at 3:39 pm

But will this get me bikini ready? I do follow the Paleo diet but I want to get those nice abs and a nice toned body— will this not only work for weightloss but for getting that nice beach bod?


Mark October 20, 2012 at 3:26 pm

I definitely think it will.
Doing sprints, or any exercise with high-intensity will release the maximum amount of growth hormone, which burns fat and builds muscle, not to mention the positive effect on learning and brain function.


Bri November 11, 2012 at 2:01 pm

So happy to have found this page. 😀


Lauren February 4, 2013 at 2:43 pm

Hi! I really like your website and I’m going to give Paleo a try. I know that you’re a guy, but I was wondering if you could recommend any Paleo sites that have more of a female perspective? All of the Paleo stuff that I find seems to be written by men (except for the straight cooking/recipe sites, I’m looking for more of a whole life/dietary approach that you give). Since women do have different hormonal/dietary needs it would be helpful to have a woman’s experience/point of view. Any info you could provide would be great, thanks!


CavemanGreg February 6, 2013 at 4:16 pm

Stefani Ruper
Liz Wolf
Sarah Fragoso


Shayne April 7, 2013 at 12:10 pm

After reading your article, two other activities come to mind. I wrestled in high school and that’s similar to short bursts of all out intensity. You literally use all parts of your body and all muscles for very short periods of time. I know it’s not a normal form of excersise but it’s different!
And secondly, when you mentioned the boulder hopping and tree climbing. The urban “sport” of parkour came to mind. That could be a fun substitute for those without nature’s playgrounds.


emmit May 19, 2013 at 9:38 pm

Hey i just started fyi im in middel scool i have extra body fat iv ben on it for 4 days iv lost 10 pounds working grate i dont realy like waring shoos but its my scools dres code and i cant afored arealy expenive shoes i need a minmalis shoe thats looks like a reg shoe that i can run in ext and what are some work outs i can do to help me get a 6 pac this will help me soooooooooooo much with the girls ps grate web site keep up the good work


Steve June 28, 2013 at 7:04 am

Great website. Really eye opening, sensible stuff. What are your thoughts on surfing? It’s fairly exhausting at times, but I would love to hear your thoughts on it. Regards, steve


charles brown August 20, 2013 at 11:12 am

Wattabout golf?


CavemanGreg August 22, 2013 at 10:03 am

I wouldn’t say that golf is particularly paleo, but I wouldn’t say it isn’t either. I think it would fall more into the “play” and move frequently at a slow pace categories, both important. Still, supplementing with sprinting and weightlifting would yield additional benefit.


Juegos de Autos August 20, 2013 at 3:32 pm

Do you mind if I quote a few of your articles as long as I provide credit and sources
back to your website? My blog is in the exact same
niche as yours and my visitors would genuinely benefit from some of the information you provide here.
Please let me know if this okay with you. Many thanks!


CavemanGreg August 31, 2013 at 5:44 pm

not at all, go for it!


Jacob Bleeker October 19, 2013 at 5:53 am

I think we can safely credit things other than genetics for Lance Armstrong’s ability to weather prolonged 80%+ effort exercise.


CavemanGreg November 5, 2013 at 9:29 pm

Performance enhancing drugs only increase performance 1-2% at that level of competition. That is all it takes to get the edge though. Yes, the truth about Lance is sad, but he is still a genetically gifted athlete.


T$ January 3, 2014 at 10:33 am

Id say Toms are pretty close to what you want. I wore mine till they were completely tattered and really liked them, even if their lifetime wasnt super long. If youre looking for a VERY minimal shoe take out the lether insole, they are then basically just canvas wrapped tight round your foot with a rubber sole. Thats what I did.

I guess a tip to increase the ahoes longevity is to clip your toe nails…


Jodi March 16, 2014 at 3:42 pm

You are answering so many questions for me! I’ve long pondered the, “is this aerobic/weight lifting stuff really natural”? question. This makes SO MUCH sense. I wish I hadn’t had to wait until mid-life to find out all about this but better late than never.

And this is so liberating for me as a mother of 6 year old twins. I have felt so bad “ditching” my kids to work out. This way we can ALL go together, make a trip of it! To the mountains, etc. They can grow up in the HABIT of “paleo” exercise. THANK YOU!


Kirsty March 23, 2014 at 4:05 am

Where would kickboxing fall in this? I do three 1 hour sessions a week but I’m sure it wouldn’t fall into chronic cardio would it? Thanks 🙂


CavemanGreg April 26, 2014 at 9:35 pm

I’ve never done kickboxing, but it seems like it would be ok. Pretty intense off and on with a huge variety of movements and varying forces. Chronic cardio I would term 90 minutes or longer doing a repetitive exercise without much variation


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