Sunday, August 28, 2011

Barefoot interview

I've mentioned the barefoot running research of Prof Daniel Lieberman before but here is a great interview with him explaining some of his ideas.

While he is known mainly for his ideas on running, given some of the things I've been thinking about recently I thought his bit on sitting was interesting:

Q. People with bad backs often blame evolution for their pain. They say, “My back aches because man was not meant to walk on two feet.” Are they right?

A. If that were true, natural selection would have its toll and we’d be extinct. What is more likely is that many people sit in chairs all day, get no exercise, and thus have weak backs. We did not evolve to sit in chairs all day.

1 comment:

JamesSteeleII said...

"If that were true, natural selection would have its toll and we’d be extinct."

Thats not necessarily the case. That assumes that all aspects of an adaptation are beneficial. For instance the adaptation of our lumbar anatomy co-evolving with other aspects of our anatomy is what allowed bipedality and bipedality confered a number of survival benefits within the enivronment it appeared. That doesn't mean that it didn;t have any setback's i.e. a long, mobile yet relatively weak lumbar spine apparently highly suceptible to injury. As long as the benefits outweighed the drawbacks in terms of promoting survival, the drawbacks could continue to remain within the genepool as well. So as long as bipedality meant we had more chance of surviving relative to the chance that the risk of backpain had on us not surviving the trait would be likely to remain.

I still think it's a plausible evoltuionary reason to explain rates of back pain across the wide range of populations. I'm gonna try and catch Dan Liebermann at the conference I am attending in November where he is giving a keynote and taking part in a barefoot debate, in order to ask his thoughts on the topic in consideration of this.