Paleolithic lifestyle

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A paleolithic lifestyle (also known as paleo or primal lifestyle) refers to living as humans presumably did in the paleolithic era (Old Stone Age), or attempting to recreate such a lifestyle in the present day. The rationale for such an approach is that humans have evolved for millions of years in a paleolithic environment. Therefore, their body and mind can be expected to be adequately adapted to the concomitant hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Agriculture, on the other hand, only appeared about 10 000 years ago at the beginning of the neolithic era, and industrial society only about 200 years ago. Proponents of a paleolithic lifestyle assert that insufficient time has passed for humans to adapt to the changes brought by farming and industrialization, leading to a misfit between modern lifestyle and the human genome.

While a small number of cultures in the world continue to live a paleolithic hunter-gatherer lifestyle, a subculture of people has emerged in modern societies who try to recreate elements of a paleolithic lifestyle.[1][2] Their motivation is to enhance health, fitness and happiness by avoiding the common "diseases of civilization", such as obesity, some cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome, increasingly prevalent allergies, some forms of depression and chronic stress. These diseases are not yet evidenced among hunter-gatherers, and therefore they are attributed to the modern, "civilized" lifestyle.[3][4] Moreover there are indications that a paleolithic lifestyle is likely to reduce stress and depression,[5] and increase overall happiness and well-being, given that our minds and emotions too are adapted for a life as hunter-gatherers.[6][7][8]

The movement is primarily associated with the paleolithic diet, but also includes going barefoot, and replicating a paleolithic exercise routine, or involve paleolithic survival skills. Some people advocate prehistoric lifestyles for animals, notably raw feeding and natural hoof care. More generally, the paleo movement fits within a "back to nature" philosophy, as advocated, e.g., by many environmentalists. However, it distinguishes itself from some more utopian ideas associated with this philosophy by focusing on a realistic, scientific view of what humanity's "true nature" is. For example, it rejects any notions that vegetarianism or veganism is a natural lifestyle, given the evidence that paleolithic people and most present-day hunter-gatherers consumed substantial amounts of animal protein.[9] Evidence such as this comes from scientific disciplines like anthropology, paleoanthropology, evolutionary medicine, evolutionary psychology and environmental psychology.

Basic recommendations[edit]

Authors inspired by the paleo philosophy[10][11][12][13][14] formulate a variety of guidelines, including the following:

  • Adopt a Paleolithic diet as much as possible: plenty of meat, fish, vegetables, nuts and fruit, while avoiding most forms of food not in existence in paleolithic time. It implies avoiding all processed food, and in particular junk food and food with a high glycemic load, such as sweets and cultivated crops like potatoes and cereal grains (in particular wheat).
  • Exercise frequently, but with a variety of durations and intensities (including rest periods) rather than doing always the same, extended routines in a gym or while jogging
  • Perform a variety of complex "natural movements" (such as walking, running, jumping, crawling, climbing, carrying, throwing, swimming...) that use the whole body rather than artificially constrained exercises that focus on specific muscles (like those afforded by most gym equipment)
  • Maximize contact with nature, e.g. by keeping plants, gardening, working with animals, hiking in the woods, or climbing trees (as also proposed by the biophilia philosophy)
  • Use a minimum of clothes and don't wear shoes: exposure to heat, cold, pressure, and other natural forces strengthens rather than weakens the body
  • Expose yourself regularly to the sun or at least to natural light, to get sufficient vitamin D and prevent depression
  • Try to sleep at least 8 hours a day, preferably in line with natural day-night rhythms (though people in pre-industrial societies do not sleep in contiguous blocks - see anthropology of sleep and segmented sleep)
  • Spend sufficient time relaxing, playing, and just "being in the present", without worrying about later
  • Reduce overall levels of stress; avoid overworking in favor of downshifting and simple living
  • Allow contact with "dirt": soil contains plenty of beneficial bacteria that strengthen immunity. Eat fermented foods like sauerkraut, kim chi, kombucha, etc. Lifelong exposure to a variety of microbes may actually be necessary to prevent allergies and autoimmune diseases, as proposed by the hygiene hypothesis.
  • Rear children the way hunter-gatherers do: extended breast-feeding, carrying of babies on the body, co-sleeping, while allowing older children to play and explore autonomously [15]
  • Sit with legs level with rear end (essentially, in the squatting position), as people in indigenous tribes do.
  • Socialize and interact closely with a small group of real friends, instead of staying alone or "networking" with thousands of superficial acquaintances.


  1. ^ P. Bethge (2010) A Stone Age Subculture Takes Shape in the US, Der Spiegel (02/11/2010).
  2. ^ The New Age Cavemen and the City, by Joseph Goldstein, The New York Times, January 8, 2010.
  3. ^ Carrera-Bastos, P., Fontes-Villalba, M., O’Keefe, J. H., Lindeberg, S., & Cordain, L. (2011). The western diet and lifestyle and diseases of civilization. Research Reports in Clinical Cardiology, 15. doi:10.2147/RRCC.S16919
  4. ^ Eaton, S. B., Konner, M., & Shostak, M. (1988). Stone agers in the fast lane: chronic degenerative diseases in evolutionary perspective. The American Journal of Medicine, 84(4), 739–749
  5. ^ Ilardi, S. S. (2010). The Depression Cure: The 6-Step Program to Beat Depression without Drugs. Da Capo Lifelong Books
  6. ^ Grinde, B. (2005). Darwinian Happiness: Can the Evolutionary Perspective on Well-Being Help us Improve Society? World Futures, 61(4), 317.
  7. ^ Hill, S. E., & Buss, D. M. (2008). Evolution and subjective well-being. in: The science of subjective well-being, p. 62–79.
  8. ^ Heylighen F. (2012). "Evolutionary Psychology", in: A. Michalos (ed.): Encyclopedia of Quality of Life Research (Springer, Berlin).
  9. ^ Carrera-Bastos, P., Fontes-Villalba, M., O’Keefe, J. H., Lindeberg, S., & Cordain, L. (2011). The western diet and lifestyle and diseases of civilization. Research Reports in Clinical Cardiology, 15. doi:10.2147/RRCC.S16919
  10. ^ Wolf, R. (2010). The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet. Victory Belt Publishing
  11. ^ Sisson, M. (2009). The Primal Blueprint: Reprogram your genes for effortless weight loss, vibrant health, and boundless energy. Primal Nutrition, Inc
  12. ^ De Vany, A. (2010). The New Evolution Diet: What Our Paleolithic Ancestors Can Teach Us about Weight Loss, Fitness, and Aging. Rodale Books.
  13. ^ Ilardi, S. S. (2010). The Depression Cure: The 6-Step Program to Beat Depression without Drugs. Da Capo Lifelong Books.
  14. ^ O’Keefe, James H., Vogel, R., Lavie, C. J., & Cordain, L. (2010). Achieving Hunter-gatherer Fitness in the 21st Century: Back to the Future. The American Journal of Medicine, 123(12), 1082-1086. doi:10.1016/j.amjmed.2010.04.026
  15. ^ Schön, R. A., & Silvén, M. (2007). Natural Parenting-Back to Basics in Infant Care. Evolutionary Psychology, 5(1), 102–183.

See also[edit]

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