MASTER CLASS: Desperation makes primal cave nonsense sound like science

The term “primal” has somehow gained traction among health and fitness trends of 2022. As with most fitness fads, the concept is wildly unbalanced in terms of nutrition, lifestyle and mindset.

I have a perspective on the concept of “reaching your prehistoric potential” and how to wade through all of the … ahem … information. And I can share a simple exercise that is so basic — it just might appear on your next primal workout prescription. LOL!

Fitness fads have long since been a blessing and a curse. With one hand, they can inspire and motivate people to change how they live — which is usually a good thing. But the dietary and exercise regimens are often one-sided and potentially dangerous.

The Greek tragedian, Sophocles, once said, “If you were to offer a thirsty man all wisdom, you would not please him more than if you gave him a drink.” When I think about fad diets and fad exercise programs, this quote comes to mind.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 40% of Americans are considered obese. So, 4 out of 10 people have a body mass index (BMI) greater than or equal to 30. Once a person reaches a BMI of 30, they have almost certainly tried “traditional” types of lifestyle modification. They have tried walking, calorie reduction and maybe even bought a gym membership.

In my experience, one’s decision to start a fad fitness routine is not a fool’s journey.

It’s a decision made from desperation, just like the thirsty man in the Sophocles quotation. Even if people know that a diet of 90% grapefruit is nonsense, they are willing to try anything after reaching their breaking point.

This is how trendy, fad fitness programs like “caveman” and “primal” gain traction. They take advantage of people in their weakest moments by offering a glimmer of hope on the horizon. They appear as a lush oasis in a dry desert of calorie counting, treadmills and early morning alarms.

As someone who has spent a lifetime helping people achieve their wellness goals, I can tell you there are no shortcuts. There’s no amount of grapefruit or calves liver that can melt away body fat. Are there nutritional lessons to be learned from chemistry? Absolutely. The glycemic index and refined sugars are real factors in a nutritional plan. But any program that prescribes raw animal organs as a main dish needs to be, well, taken out to pasture.

This week’s exercise is, however, decidedly not reliant on today’s fitness equipment technology. The Kneel & Lift is a very basic, functional exercise that builds lower body strength and stability with only body weight serving as resistance.

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1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart.

2. Step backward with the right foot and bend the right knee until it’s touching the floor.

3. Pause here.

Four. Drive through the left heel and lift the right knee off the floor.

5. Continue raising the right knee up until it’s at hip level in front of your body.

6. Lower and lift again.

7. Perform 12 with the right leg and then switch to the left.

8. Do two sets with each leg.

This movement is great for those looking to increase efficiency without equipment. As I write this, the temperature outside my office is a bone-chilling 2 degrees Fahrenheit, so a home-based workout sounds pretty appealing right now. This exercise makes the perfect addition, so let’s get cracking!

Director of business development and population health solutions for Quest Diagnostics, Matt Parrott began this column 20 years ago in Little Rock. He has a doctorate in education (sport studies), a master’s in kinesiology and is certified by the American College of Sports Medicine.

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