In general, we think that since exercise is good for our health, any exercise is good for our health. In fact, I used to assume that hard working farmers spending long gruelling days in the fields probably have ideal solid bodies. While reading Harari’s Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, I came to know how this is not true (on a separate note, the book is currently making waves all around the world and probably needs many articles on its own. I hope I will write about more of its ideas later).
Writing about why agriculture was history’s biggest fraud, Harari suggests the following interesting theory.
Wheat did it by manipulating Homo Sapiens to its advantage. This ape had been living a fairly comfortable life hunting and gathering until about 10,000 years ago, but then began to invest more and more effort in cultivating wheat. Within a couple of millennia, humans in many parts of the world were doing little from dawn to dusk other than taking care of wheat plants. It wasn’t easy. Wheat demanded a lot of them. Wheat didn’t like rocks and pebbles, so Sapiens broke their backs clearing fields. …… Wheat was thirsty, so humans dug irrigation canals or lugged heavy buckets from the well to water it.
The body of Homo Sapiens had not evolved for such tasks. It was adapted to climbing apple trees and running after gazelles, not to clearing rocks and carrying water buckets. Human spines, knees, necks and arches paid the price. Studies of ancient skeletons indicate that the transition to agriculture brought about a plethora of ailments, such as slipped discs, arthritis and hernias.
On a similar note, not every exercise is good for our health. Sometimes, we are breaking our bodies instead of strengthening them in this process. If a particular exercise hurts you, it is best to check with someone if that is the right exercise to continue.