Dr. Marc Bubbs, ND, CSCS

Movement is Critical For Better Health!

A Paleo lifestyle isn’t limited to an ancestral approach to eating; the importance of movement is paramount. Diet and exercise go hand in hand in promoting wellness and fighting off debilitating chronic diseases. All major medical journals seem to be in agreement that 85% of chronic diseases are diet, exercise and lifestyle based, which means looking back to our ancestral roots can provide key insights into how we should eat and move.

There is a romantic notion in the Paleo world that our hunter-gatherer ancestors were swinging through the trees, jumping over creek beds, and running through forests all day, which led to their phenomenal body composition. Surely, their lean bodies were the result of moremovement than our current sedentary generation?

Surprisingly, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Would you believe that our Paleo ancestors were actually just as sedentary as we are today?

Last year at the Ancestral Health Symposium, Dr. James Steele PhD concluded from all the research he had found in this area that our hunter-gatherer ancestors were no more active than we are today.1 On the one hand this seems to make sense; if their primary goal was to run after and capture food it wouldn’t be wise to waste energy for no reason throughout the day. On the other hand, if they were just as sedentary as we are today how did they maintain such lean and healthy bodies? The research from expert anthropologists confirms that our Paleolithic ancestors were free of the chronic degenerative disease progressions so readily seen today.2

It seems the answer comes down to one very important factor… exercise intensity!

While our Paleo ancestors didn’t move more than we do today, when they did move they moved with much greater intensity than people typically do nowadays. Interestingly, this dovetails with the bulk of the current research in exercise physiology supporting the notion that exercise intensity is a key factor for improving fitness, body composition and overall health.

A recent study in the journal Metabolismexamined the impact of 4-6 rounds of 30 seconds sprints – known as high-intensity interval training (HIIT) – on body composition and health parameters in overweight and obese men. After only two weeks of training, insulin sensitivity and fat oxidation improved significantly in all men. The men also experienced significant decreases in waist circumference, a well recognized marker for chronic disease risk.3

Another study of overweight, sedentary and prediabetic women examined the impacts of 12-weeks of HIIT on metabolic markers for disease. While no changes in body composition were observed, the HIIT group did have significant reductions in blood sugars, insulin and homeostasis model assessment for insulin resistance (HOMAlR), key improvements in known markers of metabolic dysfunction.4

HIIT training is all about the minimum effective dose to achieve the maximum benefit.

Interestingly, a new study set out to discover just that.

They examined whether one single bout of intense exercise would be enough to improve health, in this case supporting better blood sugars, insulin and fat oxidation in overweight individuals. Their findings were impressive. A single extended sprint was sufficient to significantly improve fasting insulin and increase fat oxidation by 38% the day following exercise.5 While another group performing four sprints had superior results, the fact that the one single sprint group produced these incredible adaptions confirms that we need to emphasize the importance of exercise intensity with our patients.

The best thing about HIIT is that it’s easily scaled to meet your clients capacity. If they are very overweight or obese, high intensity might mean walking up a hill or climbing a set of stairs. If your clients are in better physical condition it may mean performing cycling sprints on a stationary bike, running 50 meter sprints in the park, or lifting weights (e.g. squats, deadlifts, lunges, etc.)

The next major advantage of HIIT training is that it’s extremely time efficient. A typical HIIT session will last between 8-20 minutes. How many times do clients tell you they don’t have an hour to spare to exercise? Patient compliance dramatically increases when clients start doing less exercise and achieving superior results. Just like our ancestors, it’s all about being efficient!

Movement is a fundamental component of healthy living, and the ancestral approach has helped to shed light on how we should be telling our clients to move. Exercise dramatically impacts more systems in the body than any food, drug or supplement ever could. Incorporate more movement and time efficient HIIT exercise into your clients’ routines, or refer them to trainers skilled in this area, to help them build a foundation for better health and longevity.

-Dr. Marc Bubbs ND, CSCS


Marc-BubbsDr. Marc Bubbs, NDis a Naturopathic Doctor, Strength Coach, Speaker, Blogger, and Author of The Paleo Project – A 21st Guide to Looking Leaner, Getting Stronger, & Living Longer. Marc also serves as the Sports Nutrition Lead for the Canadian Men’s National Basketball Team and believes that diet, exercise, and lifestyle factors have the most profound impact on your overall health and performance.



  1. Ancestral Health Symposium (AHS) 2014, Berkeley California – Dr. James Steele PhD. Ancestral Exericse.
  2. COrdain L, Eades M, Eades MD. Hyperinsulinemic diseases of civilization: more than just Syndrome X. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part A 136 (2003) 95–112
  3. Whyte J, Gill J, Cathcart A. Effect of 2 weeks of sprint interval training on health-related outcomes in sedentary overweight/obese men. Metabolism. 2010 Oct;59(10):1421-8. doi: 10.1016/j.metabol.2010.01.002.
  4. Alvarez,C, Ramirez R et al. [Effect of sprint interval training and resistance exercise on metabolic markers in overweight women]. Rev Med Chil. 2012 Oct;140(10):1289-96. doi: 10.4067/S0034-98872012001000008.
  5. Whyte J, Ferguson C et al. Effects of single bout of very high-intensity exercise on metabolic health biomarkers in overweight/obese sedentary men. Metabolism. 2013 Feb;62(2):212-9. doi: 10.1016/j.metabol.2012.07.019


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