Getting into Paleo Fitness
Date: 2014-04-09
Author: - Editor
Access: Public

No doubt you have heard of the Paleolithic or “caveman” era - this dates back around 2.5 million years. The term was coined by archaeologist John Lubbock in 1865. It is derived from the Greek terms ‘palaios’ (meaning Old) and ‘lithos’ (stone), so literally meaning ‘old age of stone’ or ‘Old Stone Age’. 

While the Paleo diet has gained prominence during the last few years, so has a new concept of fitness.

Paleo Fitness is about going back to basics, and using the human body as it was originally intended. These times were pre-historic, so there was no real organised way of living  - or of exercising. Living was about survival, making sure they had enough food and water and shelter and also to protect themselves against danger. This meant however that they were often active in these pursuits and it is this type of activity that ‘Paleo Fitness’ tries to replicate, i.e. that of hunter and gatherer.

So what were the main movements of our caveman ancestors? Well, they would spend their day, hunting for food (meat or plants), gathering (for say shelter/protection), wandering, crawling, climbing, pushing/dragging large objects around to say build shelter, as well as swimming, jumping, balancing, striking, throwing and catching.These type of movements would have assisted our genes to build strong blood vessels to provide the energy to undertake these activities and also to allow our organs to convert fat into this energy, our bones and joints would also have been strengthened by these activities. So this type of exercise was vital for our survival.

These days we don’t have the same reasons for doing this type of exercise, but the benefits remain the same. We can copy this type of movement by doing things such as:

  • rock climbing
  • hiking over rough terrain
  • lifting heavy rocks
  • barefoot running
  • moving on all fours 

There are three main principles in following Paleo Fitness:-

1. Move around at a slow pace - Walk as much as you can (like the hunting and gathering of our ancestors). Walking has many benefits and basically no pitfalls. Keeping a slow pace means working out below approximately 80% of your maximum. You should be be able to hold a conversation and be working in the aerobic (fat burning ) zone. Take it further by going hiking/bushwalking - this can involve the whole family and be fun. The harder terrain makes you work more, incorporate here some climbing (trees/rocks), swimming in the summer, and use rope swings to jump in the creek. Essentially stay on your feet - or bottom. Have you ever tried:

  • rowing
  • kayaking
  • canoeing
  • riding a bike

 2. Sprint once in a while - This was important for the Caveman. Having to outrun predators or chase down game was a very real occurrence. Today, this can be done in many ways, mainly running - just go flat out for at least 50 meters (up to 400 if you’re fitter), take a breath and repeat. Always warm up first and build up to higher levels; don’t aim for the top on your first go! Same in the pool; do a couple of laps flat out, rest a while and go again, or on your bike - same principle. Try and do some form of sprinting at least once a week. For those of you who are fitter try this 3-4 times a week, or whenever your schedule permits.

3. Lift heavy objects - There are a set of skills which this type of exercise aims to build... and if you take these into account when planning your own exercise routine, you will really see an improvement in your overall fitness level and health.


  • FLEXIBILITY -  To improve your range of motion around the joints in your body, especially your spine, hips and shoulders. 
  • CARDIOVASCULAR ENDURANCE - The ability of your heart to deliver nutrients and oxygen efficiently around your body. 
  • STAMINA -  Your body being able to push through and keep going through correct use of the energy process. 
  • STRENGTH  - The muscle groups within your body being able to apply force against an object.
  • SPEED - Aiming to reduce the time it takes to perform a repeat movement.
  • BALANCE - Being in control of the body’s ability in correctly placing its center of gravity.
  • CO-ORDINATION - Your ability in being able to control different body movements or patterns at one time.
  • ACCURACY - To gain control over movement in a particular direction at the right intensity.
  • AGILITY - Being able to make best use of time between varying movement patterns.

Another more organised group training type of exercise is called CrossFit which may be compared to indoor bootcamp with observed training, meaning you will have less chance of injury! Look for a CrossFit fitness centre in your city for a purpose-built strength and conditioning facility that has CrossFit methodology for training individuals to obtain fitness goals.

Speak to your healthcare practitioner for more information about looking after your health with an individualised treatment regimen that includes a combination of a balanced diet, high-quality supplementation and exercise. To find a healthcare practitioner in your local area, use our Find a Practitioner service.