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Outdoors / The Pack / Andrew Murray

Born to Run

Doctor Andrew Murray about the benefits of doing regular exercise

The UK has been inhabited for about 15,000 years. We have always done plenty of exercise, initially as hunter gatherers looking to catch food or avoid being eaten then more latterly working in jobs that involved moving and being active. The second part of the 20th Century  changed all this, and now over 50% of jobs are desk jobs.  The problem is that we were made to move- the human body has evolved in such a way that regular exercise is a key part of staying well, and when this doesn’t happen, there are implications for our physical and mental health.

When I decided to run over 34 miles per day, from John O’Groats to the Sahara desert (4300km), it was partly to test the hypothesis I’d read in Chris McDougall’s book “Born to Run” that we have evolved perfectly as persistence hunters- being amongst the best performers in the animal kingdom at running  long distances without overheating or breaking down. It proved that an average Joe like myself could do that sort of thing.

During this trip I spent a lot of time running, but also had the chance to read quite a bit- and was fascinated by the research showing the huge benefit you get from regular exercise. I must admit prior to reading, I just knew I enjoyed getting outside, seeing new things, and getting the happy hormones going. This 9 minute cartoon film “23 ½ hours” has 9 million hits worldwide and counting and explains the benefits of regular physical activity, and challenges the viewer to limit “your slouching, sleeping and sitting to 23 and a half hours per day”.

Simply put, getting any form of regular exercise is the single best thing you can do for your health.


Studies show that it makes us happier and more relaxed, whilst also helping us perform better at school or work. Professor Steve Blair even showed that low fitness kills more people than “smokadiabesity”- the combination of smoking, type2 diabetes, and obesity, while our top doctor Sir Harry Burns says “lack of exercise may be as dangerous as smoking”.

But it’s more about what we’ve got to gain. Who wouldn’t want to be happier, healthier, and more productive. Who wouldn’t want to live an average of 7.2 years longer than your average couch potato.  Personally I like the outdoor gym the most- whether it’s biking, running or pretty much anything else the fresh air offers me time out, and there is always something new to see.



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