THE BIG READ: Born to run, built to be lazy

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Many people find it hard to work out and that’s because we were designed to conserve our energy, says Harvard professor Daniel Lieberman. (PHOTO: GALLO IMAGES/GETTY IMAGES)
Many people find it hard to work out and that’s because we were designed to conserve our energy, says Harvard professor Daniel Lieberman. (PHOTO: GALLO IMAGES/GETTY IMAGES)

Daniel Lieberman has just returned from his morning run when we meet via Zoom, which means his cells will be undergoing the “afterburn”. The term is used to describe a heightened metabolic state that can endure for hours after physical exertion.

Dozens of repair mechanisms are said to kick in, at a microscopic level, to reverse some of the biological damage that accumulates with age. As he sits in his home office in Cambridge, Massachusetts, it seems fitting that Daniel, a lithe 56-year-old Harvard professor and avid marathon runner with a resting heartbeat in the forties, should be found in this restorative condition.

Over the past two decades, few academics have done more to shape the way the western world views athleticism. Daniel studies how and why the human body is the way it is. His research has combined paleontology, anatomy, anthropology and experimental biomechanics, and today he’s best known for his work explaining how we came to run.

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