Harvard in Motion

Kicking off a program that aims to make Harvard and the surrounding community less sedentary

A new fitness initiative, Harvard on the Move, kicked off on January 26 with a panel discussion on the benefits of walking and running, moderated by President Drew Faust in Sanders Theatre. The program aims to build a community of walkers and runners, welcoming all members of the University community as well as interested neighbors in Cambridge and Boston. Kirkland House tutor Alexios Monopolis (alexios@post.harvard.edu) is its program manager and coach. The panel included Daniel Lieberman, professor of human evolutionary biology, Christopher McDougall ’85, author of Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen, and John Ratey, associate clinical professor of psychiatry, all committed runners themselves.

Faust described the program as a way of translating research into practice. Lieberman, whose work was recently featured in Harvard Magazine, argued that today's sedentary lives are "bizarre" in comparison with the way hunter-gatherers lived until only 600 generations ago. He claimed that exercise could help reverse many health problems that stem from "Paleolithic bodies leading twenty-first century lives," and noted that two million years ago, "people didn't run alone with iPods in their ears, but in groups" that allowed them to exchange news and gossip. McDougall observed that, relative to other species, running is "the one thing we are really, really good at," and described the ultra-long-distance-running Tarahumara Indian tribe of Mexico that his book features as a community in which depression, cancer, heart disease, and crime are unknown. Psychiatrist Ratey, author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, concentrated on the benefits that exercise confers for mental states involving mood, learning, attention, stress, and anxiety.  

Harvard Magazine has covered the consequences of "Paleolithic bodies living twenty-first century lives" in three feature articles:

"The Deadliest Sin" (2004)

"The Way We Eat Now" (2004)

"Decoding Diabetes" (2008)

Harvard on the Move's program of group walks and runs, which it plans to sponsor four times weekly, begins on Tuesday, February 1, with President Faust herself present when the initiative takes what will literally be its first step. 

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