Monday, January 29, 2024

Exercised: Why Something We Never Evolved to Do Is Healthy and Rewarding


While perusing the library the other day, I stumbled on Daniel E. Lieberman's Exercised: Why Something We Never Evolved to Do Is Healthy and Rewarding. Lieberman takes an anthropological look at exercise to explain why so many people in the modern world struggle with getting enough exercise, even though pretty much everyone knows how good it is for you.

Exercised is a big, dense nonfiction book, so it might be a bit intimidating to pick up. But Lieberman's writing is accessible, and his subject matter is interesting. He looks at the differences between modern Western people, and people elsewhere in the world (with a particular look at hunter gatherer people who are still around today), dispelling many myths that people have about exercise, showing that we evolved to conserve as many calories as possible, and so it is entirely alien for us to actively seek out burning calories for fun.

The statistics he shares are fascinating. He directly challenges many of the beliefs people I know hold about aging. He shows the benefits of exercise for a broad range of conditions (and it's surprising how many things are improved by exercise). While reading Exercised, I discovered a lot of fun things that I've been sharing with my friends and family, which will hopefully change our entire outlook on exercise (and aging). While exercise isn't a magic bullet that can stop everything, being active into your later years drastically decreases your chances of a shortened healthspan (and decreases your risk of many chronic diseases!)

The one thing I wish Exercised did better was tackle what we can do to increase our exercise in this modern world where so much activity has been removed (mainly thanks to driving and other modern conveniences). That chapter didn't offer much more than "be social," which, while understandable (humans are social beings who evolved to hang out with others) was a bit of a letdown. What should someone who commutes long hours and barely has time to see their family and friends do?  Are there better tips to help people get started, knowing that once they start they will feel better afterwards? I guess other books will have to help more with these and other solutions (this is an anthropological look at exercise, so in some ways I guess this chapter didn't really fit within the rest of the book, and that's why it felt so underwhelming).

All in all though, I am glad to have read Exercised. I feel like my outlook on exercise has changed, and it has inspired me to try to better fight my evolutionary drive to sit and do nothing, all in the name of better health!

Thursday, January 18, 2024

System Collapse

 I was excited to see a new Murderbot Diaries book at the library the other day!  And even more exciting, this one actually does pick up after Network Effect! Unfortunately, it's been three and a half years since I read that book, so I didn't remember a lot of what happened. :(

System Collapse has Murderbot, ART, and their humans trying to save some colonists from enslavement by a corporation, Barish-Estranza. But every time they turn around, the mission gets more and more complicated. First, there's a second group of colonists who have split off from the primary group (and the primary group long lost contact with them). Then, much to their dismay, once Murderbot, some of the humans, and a segment of ART in a drone locate them, they discover that Barish-Estranza has gotten to the second group of colonists first!  

And all the while, Murderbot isn't functioning the way it should.  Something happened to it (which it redacts through most of the book) and it is trying to make sense of everything. Unfortunately, that means that it isn't able to keep everyone safe the way it normally can.

While I enjoyed System Collapse, I really felt that I needed to reread Network Effect.  I couldn't remember who ART's humans were, and only vaguely remembered what had happened to everyone. I recommend rereading that before jumping into System Collapse if it's been awhile for you, too.