Connect with us

Do you have a goal to lose weight? If so, you’re probably thinking about how you need to exercise more. And that can certainly help. But what about the 23 hours a day you’re not at the gym? How much you move during those hours — from walking to the mailbox to fidgeting at your desk — can be just as important in winning the battle of the bulge.

Here to explain the importance of what’s called non-exercise activity thermogenesis, or NEAT, is Dr. James Levine, a professor, the co-director of the Mayo Clinic’s Obesity Solutions Initiative, the inventor of the treadmill desk, and the author of Get Up!: Why Your Chair Is Killing You and What You Can Do About It. James explains how much more sedentary we are than we used to be and what happens to your body when, as the average American does, you spend two-thirds of your day sitting. He shares how doing the lightest kinds of physical activity, even standing more, can help you lose a significant amount of weight and improve other aspects of health, from your sleep to your mood. And we talk about how to easily incorporate more NEAT into your day.

Resources Related to the Podcast

  • Role of Nonexercise Activity Thermogenesis in Resistance to Fat Gain in Humans — James’ overfeeding study
  • AoM Article: The Digestive Power of an After-Dinner Walk
  • AoM Podcast #552: How to Optimize Your Metabolism
  • AoM Article: The Importance of Building Your Daily Sleep Pressure

71cT93LzPNL. SL1500 1 jpg

Listen to the Podcast! (And don’t forget to leave us a review!)

Spotify. Apple Podcast.


Listen to the episode on a separate page.

Download this episode.

Subscribe to the podcast in the media player of your choice.

Read the Transcript

Brett McKay: Brett McKay here, and welcome to another edition of the Art of Manliness podcast. Do you have a goal to lose weight? If so, you’re probably thinking about how you need to exercise more, and that can certainly help. But what about the 23 hours a day you’re not at the gym? How much you move during those hours, from walking to the mailbox to fidgeting at your desk, can be just as important in winning the battle of the bulge.

Here to explain the importance of what’s called non-exercise activity thermogenesis, or NEAT, is Dr. James Levine, a professor, the co-director of the Mayo Clinic’s Obesity Solutions Initiative, the inventor of the treadmill desk, and the author of Get Up, Why Your Chair Is Killing You and What You Can Do About It. James explains how much more sedentary we are than we used to be, what happens to your body when you spend half of your day sitting.

He shares how doing the lightest kinds of physical activity, even standing more, can help you lose a significant amount of weight and improve other aspects of your health, from your sleep to your mood. And we talk about how you can easily incorporate more NEAT into your day. After the show’s over, check out our show notes at

All right. James Levine, welcome to the show.

Dr. James Levine: Thank you so much for having me, Brett. So you have spent your career researching obesity, particularly how our physical activity levels can contribute to how trim we are or how fat we are. When it comes to the way our body burns or uses calories, you’ve broke it down in your work, and there’s basically three ways our bodies burn calories. What are those three ways our body uses calories?

Yeah, the three basic ways we burn calories are there is the basal metabolism. Basal metabolism accounts for about 60% of the total. The bigger you are, the bigger your basal metabolism, or more specifically, the greater your lean body mass, the greater your basal metabolism. Now what’s important is, yes, it’s actually the majority burn, but you can’t change it. So moving on, the next one is the thermic effect of food. It accounts for about 11% of the total. Now, those are the calories you expend when you convert your meal into intermediary metabolites like glycogen and glucose.

So, if you have three meals a day, you’re gonna have three thermic effects of food. It accounts for about 11% of the total. Guess what? You can’t really change it. Now, the remaining component, where we’ve done 60, we’ve done 10. So the remaining component is about 30% on average of the calorie burn is through activity. Activity is either non-exercise activity or putting on your lycra spandex shorts. I know, Brett, I think you adore those and going off for a run.

We all know what exercise is, but most people around the world actually don’t take purposeful exercise at all. So all of their calorie burn through activity is through non-exercise activity. And in terms of calories, we call that non-exercise activity thermogenesis. And Brett, as a micro sidebar, if I may, even if you do go and do pilates three times a week or whatever that may be, when you actually work out how many calories you burn doing those three classes, which are 30 minutes, and you’ve done the three times a week, you’ve driven there, and so on and so forth. That only averages out to about 100 calories a day, and that’s if you’re having a proper workout.

Dr. James Levine: And so really, for nearly everybody listening to the podcast, your non-exercise activity thermogenesis are the calories you burn through daily energy activity.

Brett McKay: So, okay, non-exercise activity thermogenesis, shorthand, it’s NEAT. It’s called NEAT.

Dr. James Levine: NEAT.

Brett McKay: So basically, it’s just anytime you move during the day, like I’m standing up while doing this interview, talking to you, I’m gesticulating. That is NEAT, correct?

Dr. James Levine: NEAT are the calories you burn throughout the day. That is exactly correct. And I’m also standing up, Brett. There we go. Twin standards. But yeah, it’s all those calories you burn throughout the day. And it’s the calories you burn sort of as you get out of bed and go make coffee and go and collect the mail from the mailbox. It’s the mooching around you do during your day. It’s even sort of the tapping on the table as you’re waiting for the website to upload. And it’s sort of chopping up vegetables in the evening as you’re making your dinner. It’s wandering around the supermarket. It’s all those things you do that aren’t sleeping and eating.

Brett McKay: And how many calories, you’ve figured this out… Like how many calories do we burn in a typical NEAT activity? So if we’re just walking from the couch to the kitchen or we’re doing laundry, like what do we, like how much does it actually burn?

Dr. James Levine: So let’s think about that. First of all, as you know, what’s your NEAT for the day, and then how do you actually get to that number? So as we sort of agreed, it’s about 30% of your calories throughout the day. So that’s gonna be about, for an average person, about 700 calories. Now, what’s really, really interesting about NEAT is if you sort of look at this, if you compare 100s of people, the data set is 576 people living in high-income countries.

What you can see is actually an astonishing variation. Some people will burn 2000 calories a day more NEAT than other people. Example, if you happen to be a mail person delivering mail on foot throughout your day, or you work in agriculture, you can actually be burning 2000 calories a day more through your NEAT than if you’re actually sitting behind your desk all day long and then sitting in the evening in your rather comfy armchair.

Now, how does that actually compute? Now, what’s most important about all of this is that the sort of the biggest way of burning calories through your NEAT is to get off your bottom and walk. And I don’t necessarily mean sort of striding around, I mean mooching around. So if you get up and just walk at one mile an hour, which we call shopping speed, that’s sort of the speed when you’re going through TJ Maxx looking for the best deal. You’re walking on average about one mile an hour. You double your energy expenditure. You’re burning an extra 100 calories an hour.

So, you can immediately appreciate if you spend two hours online doing your shopping, sitting on your bottom versus mooching around at the mall for a couple of hours, there’s 200 calories right there. Now, if you walk a little bit faster at two miles an hour, you’re at 150 calories an hour. So now, Brett, you and I are both upstanding as we’re doing this podcast. We could either sit down absolutely statically still and burn almost nothing above basal. Or we could sort of stroll at about two miles an hour, which is the speed of a walk and talk meeting, and burn 150 calories each.

And so, when you actually compare people with very high NEAT to people with very low NEAT, people with very low NEAT are sitting on their bottoms all day. People with the highest NEAT are up mooching around, doing stuff on their feet, whether that’s at work or at play.

Brett McKay: All right, today, what’s the typical amount of NEAT that most Americans get? I think you said 700 calories?

Dr. James Levine: Yeah, that would be a reasonable number right there. But again, as you’re listening to this, remember the key thing, Brett, is that this is highly variable. So as you’re listening to this podcast, and you’re somebody sort of a bit like my job, which is 100% behind a computer screen every single day of the week, then you know intuitively that that’s too much sitting. And I don’t know if you’re aware of this now, if you look at job postings, they will even put as a warning on the job posting, this job requires excessive sedentary time. It’s actually extraordinary.

On the other hand, if you happen to have a job, whether that’s working in a warehouse, whether that’s working in a bakery, whether that’s working in fields, whether that’s sort of something much more ambulatory, that could even sort of be a greeter at Walmart, if you like, where you’re also mooching around. You can imagine having a NEAT five, six, 700 calories a day more than the person confined to a sedentary job.

Brett McKay: So there’s been a lot of talk about rising obesity rates in the United States, and there’s been different arguments put forth about what the cause is. It’s people are eating more, people are eating more sugary foods, people are eating more fatty foods. And you highlight research, but oftentimes it gets overlooked is that people are just moving less. Do we know like how much less we are experiencing NEAT in America today?

Dr. James Levine: Yeah. If you go back sort of 200 years to the Industrial Revolution, people moved from agricultural environments into the cities. And then what happened, of course, is there were production lines in the big factories. And then what happened, what, in the 1950s or thereabouts, people started sitting down working behind desks. And in fact, office desks were actually designed including the chair with the wheels, to stop people getting up and moving because the ergonomists back then believed that if you could stop people getting up and walking, they would actually be more productive if they sat behind their desk all day long. They were wrong.

But, that is exactly sort of how things have evolved to push us down in our chairs. And are we sitting too long? Oh, my goodness. Yes, we are. How do I know that? Is it just because of the rising obesity rates that you talk of? And there are really good data to the effect that we have sat progressively more and more and more over the last 200 years. But in fact, our calorie intake has not increased substantially. The only data showing that it has are actually from Australia.

So yeah, our calorie intake has been constant, but it’s too much for the degree of inactivity we have. And it’s not Brett, just about obesity. There are 27 other chronic diseases and conditions associated with sitting too much. And that means things like diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, even some types of cancer, and of course, musculoskeletal problems. And so, yes, on the other hand, you may be listening to this podcast and smiling. It’s quite interesting, but it’s bigger than that. It’s really serious stuff. And it’s not just our bodies we’re hurting. We’ve set up a society whereby our kids are gonna ultimately receive the world we’ve created for them.

Brett McKay: Yeah, I think it’s interesting you point out this lack of activity, physical activity on a daily basis is probably driving the obesity, a big factor in driving the obesity. You talk about, if you even look at office work, you talk about this in one of your books. If you look at office work 50 years ago compared today, you did a lot more moving in the office than today. You had to move even if you were just doing a desk job.

Dr. James Levine: This is a 100% correct. I think back to sort of when I started in the day. I’ll give you a fantastic example. My very first job was working for a really famous professor called Professor Davies, who is an osteoporosis professor. And of course, as you may be aware, osteoporosis is growing quicker and quicker, partly due to the lack of activity. And she asked me to gather papers about a certain document she was writing for the World Health Organization. I said, I’d love to.

Now, those papers were scientific articles. And in order to gather them, I kid you not, I literally had to get on my bicycle and cycle across London to probably one of 15 different libraries to gather all the articles she needed. Yes, it took a lot of time. But my goodness, I’d come into her office, sweat pouring down my back. Today, click, click, click, click, click, it’s done. And just taking that simple example, all of us listening who are of a certain age, remember how difficult things used to be where we used to have to go and get resources.

We used to… We even have to sort of walk to the printer, which was actually in the printing room. Yeah. Now we barely… We can actually spend our entire day when you think about it in the office at work. And if I need my lunch, click, click, click, DoorDash right to my desk and get home, drive through, click, click, click, Pizza at my door, and on we go. And if you sort of step back and actually think about how much time I spend sitting every day, if you think about it, what’s really interesting is you can’t really imagine a world where you don’t spend it sitting because it’s sort of a subsidiary symptom of how we actually live.

And so you don’t sort of analyze, Oh, I’m sitting a lot at the moment. You just live your life, you see. And so this is what’s happened. It sort of crept up on us. And all of a sudden, we’ve all become these terribly sedentary and rather unwell and sort of slightly blue, sedentary office workers, both in the office and at home.

Brett McKay: When some people, or I think when most people notice that I’m gaining some weight, I notice that I don’t move around all that much ’cause I have an office job that doesn’t allow me to move around all that much. They think, well, I can take care of this with just diet and exercise. But you argue that diet and exercise will never be enough to compensate for the lack of NEAT. The problem with dieting, just reducing calories, is that you can’t do that forever.

So, let’s say you reduce your calories and you do lose weight. Because you’ve reduced the amount of calories you’re consuming. But in order to continue the weight loss with calorie reduction, you have to decrease the calories even more because you’ve likely decreased your metabolic, overall metabolic rate, resting metabolic rate ’cause you’re smaller. So your body requires fewer calories. And so, it gets to a point where it becomes unsustainable. And I think…

Dr. James Levine:Let me jump in there, if I may, please. ‘Cause you’ve touched on a really interesting point. Not only is everything you just said correct, but it’s even sort of more subtle than that, if I may please. When somebody loses weight through caloric restriction, through cutting their calories down, yeah, body fat is disseminated. Somebody can also lose some lean body mass and body weight declines on a lower calorie intake. The trouble with this is the body is not a static system. The body, brilliant in its design, adjusts and actually becomes more efficient.

So in fact, once you’re at that lower caloric intake, the body is working more efficiently, making it actually more difficult to lose more weight. So you’re not even dealing with a sort of a simple mathematic is I’ve decreased my calories in, I’m now going to be able to maintain a lower body weight easier. That actually isn’t true because the body will sort of counter-regulate to make it more difficult to maintain your body weight.

Brett McKay: And then also exercise just relying on focused exercise activities to offset the amount of being sedentary. As you said earlier, it’s not gonna do much in the long run ’cause you might just burn 100, 200, 300 calories and that can’t make up for being sedentary every other hour you’re awake.

Dr. James Levine: Purposeful exercise for the sake of improving your health, like going to the gym or something like that, is fantastic if you like to do it. Let’s be clear about that. If you like to go to the gym, keep doing it, please. It’s really good for you. It’s really good for your health. But very interestingly, again, for even people who go to the gym, the harm associated with sedentariness, as you say, all the other time that you’re not at the gym, which is basically 95% of your week, the harm of sedentariness is still not eliminated.

So, if you go to the gym, great. But if you’re sedentary, you’re sedentary. And if you’re sedentary, it’s causing you harm.

Brett McKay: I feel like in the last decade or so, people, whether… You’re talking about dedicated exercise or just physical activity in general, people have been kind of down on physical activity as a method of weight management. There’s this idea out there that you can’t exercise your way or burn your way to weight loss. Diet is what really matters. If you move more at some times, you’re just going to slow down. At other times, your body’s gonna find ways to just compensate for that extra activity somehow.

But you did a study that proved, Yes, activity can keep the pounds off. It was this really complex study. You basically got a bunch of people, including yourself, and then you overfed them 1000 calories a day. And then you just watched what happened. Who gained weight and who lost weight. So walk us through that study. And what did you learn from this study?

Dr. James Levine: Yeah, Brett, it was extraordinary. It was called the Great Overfeeding Experiment. And that is exactly what we did. But I have to tell you, this wasn’t done using a computer watch or guessing. This was done meticulously in metabolic laboratories at Mayo Clinic. It was a big, big deal. Every single food item was weighed and measured chemically. Every single movement was captured. Every calorie burned was analyzed. And even how people change their body fat was measured using precise technology down to a few 100 grams.

It was extraordinary work. A huge team of people helped do it. And what we found were two things that I think are really important. You can take a group of people, none of whom have obesity, and you can expose all of them to 1000 calories a day of overfeeding for months on end. And the extraordinary thing, first of all, is this, one person can take nearly all of those extra thousand calories and deposit it in body fat. That person is super prone, almost like a sponge absorbing water, to developing excess body fat.

On the other hand, another person can receive the same amount of excess food and somehow magically through their brain get up and start spontaneously moving. Their NEAT can increase for extra 1000 calories they’ve received. Their NEAT can increase 700 extra calories a day through movement, not going to the gym, through movement. 700 calories extra a day. On one hand, you’ve got somebody who seems to absorb every extra gram of food and deposit it in their body fat.

On the other hand, you’ve got somebody who you can overfeed a 1000 calories a day and gains almost no body fat because they switch on their NEAT. They get up and they move. So what you realize is, first of all, some people are really predisposed to gaining obesity. Yeah, we all know that and I’m sure some of your people listening are nodding their heads right now. But other people have this capacity from inside of the brain to get up and move so much more that they don’t gain any weight with overfeeding. And they never went to a gym. So that’s the first thing. Now what’s the second thing? The second thing is probably even more important than that.

The second thing is, if you are one of those people nodding your head right now, if you’re one of those individuals who has a tremendous susceptibility to gaining excess body weight, as soon as you sniff extra food, what you realize is that the body is designed in such a way that you can not gain more body weight. You cannot gain excess body weight and develop obesity if you are up and you are moving and your body has the capacity to do this. And you can even burn up to, if you like, 700 calories a day extra based on those data. So it’s a beautiful idea. You can win. You don’t need to go to the gym.

You can get up and move 100s of extra calories a day, whether that’s converting a standard meeting at work to a walk and talk meeting, whether that’s converting shopping online to actually shopping by foot, whether that’s getting your groceries delivered to your door from the supermarket, or actually going to the supermarket and physically choosing it. You can integrate movement into your day, so much so to stave off excess body weight, and you can even burn up to an extra 700 calories a day doing it.

Brett McKay: We’re gonna take a quick break for a word from our sponsors. And now back to the show. Did you all figure out what causes some people to have that natural tendency to, when they consume more calories, they just start moving more naturally and others don’t do that? Is there a gene?

Dr. James Levine: Yeah, we spent a lot of time on that. And again, what’s fascinating is this. Think about it for a second. So what we did in that experiment is we got completely healthy, normal volunteers and we overfed them. We checked that they took every single extra calorie that they were given. We measured that. We even measured their urine in their stool, I should tell you. We had freezers full of poop. And what we then measured was that people responded to that by increasing their NEAT, their movement throughout their day. If you think about it for a second, how did people know to do that? It had never been discovered before.

I mean, how did that happen? People, if you like, knew to do it subconsciously because there’s a mechanism in the brain that counter-regulates how our food relates to our activity. And we thought, well, we’ve got to go and try and find that area in the brain because then we can actually help people really achieve their goals. And so we had a whole neuroscience team led by Dr. Novak, a brilliant young neuroscientist, and she identified tiny parts of the brain right in the hypothalamus, which is an old part of the brain that switches on your NEAT and switches on NEAT more in some people than others. So in fact, right at the center of your brain right now as you’re listening to this podcast, your brain is analyzing your calories in, your calories out, and is propelling you to move more or move less. So yes, there’s a deep biology underpinning this.

Brett McKay: Okay, so in some people, there’s a part of the brain that’s more discerning or more activated so that whenever you take in excess calories, it sends a signal to move more. And then in some people, that part doesn’t switch on as strongly. But a big point you make in all of your books you’ve written is that even if you don’t have that natural tendency to want to move more whenever you consume excess calories, you’re not destined to be an inert lump. You can still take action. It doesn’t have to be big change. Just take small, tiny changes throughout the day to counteract that.

Dr. James Levine: Absolutely. And the trick, if you like, I actually, as somebody who looks after patients, I really don’t like tricks. But nonetheless, for you, Brett, the trick. The trick to all of this is to make a decision. Is to make a decision with your day? Today. Is today going to be the day I’m gonna get up and take control of my life and step forwards? Or is today gonna be the day I stay on my seat? If you decide to stay on your seat, my only prayer is that tomorrow you think the same question of yourself.

On the other hand, if today is the day right now that you are going to get up, take control, and take a step forward, the moment you do that, you will do it tomorrow and you’ll do it the next day. And the data suggests that if you can find those moments throughout your day to consistently be up and moving, and you do it for 21 days approximately, it will become a habit. Just like sitting down in the evening every evening and binge watching is a habit, you can actually have really cool and healthy motivational movement habits as well.

So, if you can find those moments to get up and move throughout your day and keep doing it, it will become a habit. It’ll become part of your life. And here’s what the data from… We’ve worked in over seventy US corporations, here’s what the data from corporations show, it’s really great stuff, is once you’ve taken on one good habit and done it for 21 days, we call it the NEAT ripple effect, is a good movement habit will beget, will make another movement habit. And so, one becomes two, and all of a sudden two becomes four. And what happens is people who are sitters become people who are movers.

And people who become movers also influence their families, their kids, husbands, and wives, and friends to become movers as well. And so, there’s a NEAT ripple. But the trick, the trick, the trick is to think right now, today is today. I’m gonna get up and take control of my life and take that first step forwards or not. And if the answer is yes, do it now. In other words, Brett, what I’m saying is, if you can get it into your mindset, into your thinking that I’m gonna fight the chair, I’m gonna win this battle, you can actually do it.

Brett McKay: And what’s great, you offer suggestions on how you can do that. I think the trick is understanding, Okay, our social environment is pushing us to be sedentary. Everything is like, you do everything sitting down. And I think one trick is just, can I do this typically sedentary activity? Can I do it while moving somehow? So, you offer suggestions like, if you like to watch TV, get yourself a really cheap treadmill. You can find them on Amazon for 300 bucks now. They’re so cheap. And then just stick that in your television room. And while you’re watching your favorite show, just walk at one point one miles per hour on that treadmill. Or if you like playing video games, do the same thing. You can play a video game while you’re walking. Or like you said, if you take phone calls during work, don’t do that sitting down. Do that while you’re walking.

Dr. James Levine: You are a 100% correct. And I’m telling you, what’s really cool about this is the other thing I mentioned is once you’ve… And I will tell you now, 300 bucks for a treadmill in your house, that’s expensive these days. I mean, they’re coming in at a $100 now, or you can get a secondhand one, or you can get… People are throwing away their exercise bicycles. I mean, take it, refurbish it, put it in your TV room. And you’d be surprised that you can binge watch, I’m actually starting to re-watch Seinfeld again, I hate to tell you this, but I can binge watch Seinfeld gently cycling on my stationary bicycle.

It makes almost no noise and I’m getting just as much TV. And there is so much we can do if we put our mind to it. And the other thing, Brett, you mentioned is we sort of, society has put us in our chair. But the other thing to think about for a second is how we can change the society. Now, I don’t mean changing the world, let’s be serious, but how can I change the society I live in? So, next time if I’m dating, next time I choose a date on, I can’t remember the name of the website, whatever, where you’re swiping left and swiping right, I’m actually going to choose a date for somebody who also likes to go walking.

I’m going to sort of say, next time we all sit to come for my birthday, and for those of you listening, my birthday is November the 20th. Next, for all of you who are going to come to my birthday party, yeah, we’re going to have cake, you bet we are. But also, once we’ve done our cake, we’re also all going to go out for a walk together, we’re going to do a family walk. So, we actually have the opportunity to influence the micro society we live in, but we need to choose to do that. And it’s all part of the same thing, make that decision, take your first step, and the rest is going to flow from there.

Brett McKay: And one thing you point out in your book is that you work with a lot of patients who have had extra weight, and just by simply increasing the amount of NEAT in their lives, they’ve been able to lose weight, a lot of weight. They don’t even become serious gym goers, they’re just moving more during the day.

Dr. James Levine: A 100%. And so, yes, and if you like, there is the world of what I call testimonies, and this is fine, and I’m a 100% respectful. But as somebody with a science background, I’m actually more interested in the hardcore data from the scientific studies. And the scientific studies conducted in normal US office workers show that even in people who don’t want to lose weight, they will tend to lose weight and become more active. But in people who want to lose weight, people will start, if they activate their lives, they take on NEAT, are going to be losing 10 to 20 pounds slowly and gently, if you like, without breaking a sweat. And they’re gonna do that over six months, and then over the six months, the same.

And so, what’s really powerful about this is, Yes, 60% of the population may be dieting in any given year, but what’s really cool about NEAT is NEAT is going to help you keep off that excess body weight, and it’s going to nudge you forwards and forwards and forwards. And what’s important about this is you’re not gonna get a sports injury from NEAT, you’re not gonna have to pay a gym membership for NEAT, everyone can get up and move throughout their day without paying a penny for doing it. And what it’s gonna help with, for those people who want to lose weight, you don’t have to lose weight, even if you have excess body weight, you’re not obliged to. If you want to, this will help.

Brett McKay: So we’ve been talking about the benefits of NEAT and weight loss, but you mentioned earlier, there’s other benefits to moving more throughout the day. How can NEAT improve metabolic health? We’re talking like how we regulate glucose.

Dr. James Levine: Oh, this is really, I hope we have enough time for this, Brett, but let me explain briefly. This is super cool. Experiments were done where healthy volunteers came onto a research centre, very, very carefully monitored, and their glucose from their blood was being monitored every 30 seconds. These individuals were given breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the metabolic unit in the research centre, and then were instructed to get on with their normal day. And that was, computer work for the morning, then lunch, computer work, and a bit of Facebook, and then dinner, and then evening time, Facebook, binge watching, and TV, okay?

And we measured their blood glucose every 30 seconds continuously throughout the day. And what actually happens is, when you have breakfast, lunch, and dinner, your blood glucose climbs to a mountain and then slowly descends over a total period of about an hour and a half. After each of the three meals, that’s what happens. Then we said to people, we want you to do exactly the same day again. We’ll measure your glucose again. We’ll give you the same breakfast, lunch, and dinner again, but we want you to do one single thing different. After every meal, we want you to take a 15-minute walk or stroll at one and a half miles an hour. That’s literally strolling.

15 minutes after every meal. Now, as I mentioned, without the stroll, normal day, you have breakfast, lunch, and dinner, your blood sugar, your blood glucose climbs to a mountain, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you add a 15-minute stroll, that’s it. The mountain becomes a hill. It literally halves the size of that blood glucose mountain. 15-minute stroll after each of your meals. The biggest predictor of Type 2 diabetes is the size of those mountains. So all of a sudden, for taking a 15-minute stroll after each of your meals, everyone listening can do this. You halve your blood glucose response to meals and potentially risk of Type 2 diabetes. What a win, win, win!

Brett McKay: Now, that is really powerful. Another thing you talk about is the benefit of NEAT to our mental health. I know a lot of people out there are struggling with their mental health. What effect can NEAT have on that?

Dr. James Levine: There has not been one clinical trial in depression prevention that includes a walking program. That hasn’t helped people. Many of us are susceptible to feeling blue. I am. Feeling low, feeling bad. Most people listening will know that when you’re feeling bad and you go for a walk, for a reason you quite can’t understand, you actually feel a little bit better. What’s really powerful are the data that show that if you actually sort of take on NEAT walking as part of your routine, that will actually help you feel brighter, smarter, and sort of more alive. All of us already sort of know this. We all know this. When you’re down, somebody says, let’s go for a walk, and you feel better.

This is actually a truth. And so for those of us who can take on a NEAT approach to life, not only is your sort of body going to be better, whether that’s with respect to obesity prevention or diabetes, blood pressure, whatever it may be, but actually you’re gonna feel brighter too. And what’s really cool is once you feel brighter and happier doing a little bit of walking, even after each of your meals, guess what? You’re gonna keep doing it and you’re gonna take on more stuff so you can feel even brighter and happier. And again, that’s what the data suggests.

Brett McKay: Another thing you’ve seen in your research and working with patients is that a lot of these patients that come to see you, they talk about, I’m just so tired all the time. And it seems weird because like, you’re just sitting around all day. Why would you be tired? But I think everyone has experienced how doing absolutely nothing can just be exhausting. And by incorporating some more light physical activity during your day, it’ll actually give you the physical energy you need to do the things you want to do in life.

Dr. James Levine: I think we all, again, know this to be a common truth, but Brett, that allows me to touch on one other thing, which is so important and this will not shock anybody. Sleep. Sleep is a critical component of this equation. It is absolutely critical. And the data on NEAT and sleep are fascinating. We brought people again onto our amazing research centers at Mayo Clinic. These are extraordinary places where people volunteer to do studies to help us understand what’s going on. And we brought them onto the research center. And we said, Have a good night’s sleep in your normal way.

Get used to our facilities. And people did. What we then did is we sleep restricted people. We said to people, you’re gonna sleep 30% less. We’re gonna wake you up. We’re gonna twiddle your toes. We’re gonna keep you awake. And my goodness, yes, you’re gonna get tired. And that’s exactly what happened. But here is what the data show. The data shows when you sleep restrict people, they eat more. We all know this. When you’re tired, this is me, by the way. Okay. This is me. When I’m tired, I eat more.

This is always the case. For some reason, you reach for the choc, you reach for the chips, whatever it may be, but you eat more. This is what happens when you sleep deprived. You’re feeling tired, you’re feeling pooped out, you’re noshing, you’re eating a few snacks here and there. But the one thing when you’re tired you don’t want to do, is to get up and go for a walk. When you’re fully rested and you’ve got good sleep, you get up and you feel, what’s the word we all use? Energized. That’s what we feel. And that energized means get up and go for a walk. Get up and do some cool stuff. Let’s do something fun today. And guess what? You think less about that food you’re going to lean on to deal with your tiredness.

So I fully understand that people may have two or sometimes three jobs. I totally get it. I totally do understand that there is tremendous stress at the moment and tremendous mental anguish. But if you can find a good method to get good sleep, whether that involves, for example, stopping your coffee at noon or starting to relax early in the evening so you’re ready for sleep, not stressing yourself out with text messages or arguments before you go to bed, whatever it may be, if you can find a method of getting good sleep, that is a critically important part of the NEAT equation.

Brett McKay: Well, I also think moving more can help you sleep better. I’ve noticed my own life. There’s this idea I’ve heard about sleep pressure. You have to build up some sleep pressure so your body wants to go to sleep. And one way you can do that is just moving more. I’ve had the best nights of sleep when I’ve had a really active day. I think the best night of sleep, I’ve been chasing this night of sleep for 20 years now is when my wife and I, we went to Rome. And you just walked. There’s, like, all day. You’re just walking hours on hours. And I remember we came back to our hotel and we just laid down and we just both fell asleep. We didn’t wake up until, like, 14 hours later, and we both felt that was the best night’s sleep.

And I think it’s because we just walk so much. And I noticed in the times where I don’t move a lot during the day, I have a hard time falling asleep.

Dr. James Levine: This is 100% correct, your body… If you remember earlier, Brett, we were talking about the parts of your brain that are sort of monitoring all of this, one question you’ve got to ask yourself is, Okay, I’ve now got my movement going, just as you say. You walked around Rome all day, you sort of met your NEAT goal set by your brain. What happens if you don’t? And I think a lot of people actually understand this, but haven’t necessarily thought about it the way you put it. So if I am sort of forced to sit in meetings all day long, and I assure you that’s often many of my days, you get home sort of feeling this sort of anxiety. This sort of tightness inside of you. And I don’t know about you, but I get this thing sort of like my thoughts, and I get frustrated and irritated much more than if I’d actually had an active day where I dissipated all of my energy. And I think the other thing that, again, many people relate to, when you’ve come back from work and it’s been a day that you’ve been in your chair, you haven’t been up, moving and so on and so forth, what’s one thing you do? You reach for a beer. Really, what that’s saying is I need an anesthetic. There’s too much pressure in my head. I need to anesthetize myself.

And so therefore, the complexity of getting a good night’s sleep absolutely relates to the need to burn off the energy that our body needs us to burn off. We’re designed to get up and move. If you suppress the human, the human doesn’t do well. We get really internally upset by that, and we need to move. So part of our argument is that by forcing people to be seated all day, it’s fundamentally unnatural to people, and they need to move just to function normally. And your day in Rome is illustrative of that.

Brett McKay: So we talked about some ways people can incorporate more NEAT into their lives. There’s an activity that you do sitting down. See if you can do that standing up or even walking. For people who want to incorporate more NEAT in their life, is there a goal they should shoot for? Like, what’s the minimum dose of NEAT that we need to get before we start seeing that benefit? Is it an hour of extra NEAT two hours? Is there steps? What have you found in your research?

Dr. James Levine: Yeah, I mean, this is a terrific question. There has been a huge vogue, as many people know, to buy various gadgets, to look at various watches and sort of monitor stuff. Now, if you’re somebody who loves monitoring stuff, go for it, enjoy it. That’s great. But what is actually the truth and again, when you study this in sort of normal folk, what you find is if you give people a monitoring device, they’ll use it for a short period of time, and it can be literally, I kid you not, days. And their use of that monitoring device will fall off almost exponentially, almost sort of like over a cliff face, and they’ll sort of put it into a drawer. And how many people listening today have exercise monitoring devices, wearable little things that are in their drawer that’s powered down, that’s unused? So my advice to people is to actually look at it completely differently.

If you love monitoring stuff, get the equipment. It’s great. If you’re going to take on for yourself a goal, I suggest you take on one goal, not 100 goals. One thing. What’s the one thing you’re going to do for the next few weeks, and let’s say for the sake of argument, is every Thursday, and this is as simple as it gets, every Thursday I have to do a conference call with central corporate where they talk about health and wellness, whatever it is. It’s a 40 minutes call every single week. I only have to listen to fulfill my obligations. So I’m going to do that walk and talk. That’s one thing I’m going to do every Thursday. Super simple. Actually, what I’m going to do is I’m going to have a little chart on my fridge, and every time I do it, I’m going to put a check mark against it until I’ve done it 21 times. Monitoring, as simple as it gets.

On the other hand, I’m going to be a different person. I’m going to say, you know what? My daughter loves the art stuff, and I live in Washington DC, where all the galleries are free at Smithsonian. So once a week, I’m going to go with my daughter and we’re going to stroll through the art gallery, and we’re going to do that together for two months. Now, honestly, do you need to put that on your fridge to remind yourself to go for a walk with your daughter in the art gallery?

No. What you want to do is to do it for three weeks and it becomes a habit between you and your daughter. And so what I suggest again, is be smart, what works for you. But pick something, find a way of monitoring it, and do it. And the last concept I’d like to share with you in this regard is the idea of rewards. Now, rewards are great, okay? They’re really, really cool. But again, you have to be smart. So giving yourself a reward to go to the mailbox and collecting your mail on foot every day, to me, honestly, sounds a bit silly. I’m not going to reward myself for collecting the mail. However, if my goal is to walk a half marathon, and I had this amazing patient who did this, she came into clinic in her wheelchair, and she sent me a photograph of her and the grandchildren when they walked a half marathon.

I kid you not, it was like, it blew my mind. Her reward was if she could walk a half marathon, she’d saved up enough money to go to South Dakota for a week. That was her reward and that was her goal. And she actually said to me, Actually, the reward was to do it. So I think if you can think of the idea of finding things that you want to do, finding a method to record it, and then finding a method to recognize yourself, pat yourself on the back, or have some sort of achievement recognition that you’re off to the races.

Brett McKay: I love it. So just find ways to move more. That’s it. Again, it’s not hard. It doesn’t have to be that hard. It could be as simple as standing up at work occasionally. It could be doing the walk and talk, something that I’ve done after reading your book, or we’ve done this for a long time as a family. When we park somewhere, we park the furthest away so we can walk there, take the stairs. Kind of becomes a game. Finding ways you can move more in an environment that is fighting for you to sit more. It’s kind of fun to be a rebel. I’m going to move more instead.

Dr. James Levine: Yeah, be a rebel for yourself. Do it. Get up and move.

Brett McKay: Well, James, this has been a great conversation. Where can people go to learn more about your work?

Dr. James Levine: Well, I mean, it’s fantastic. If people wish to go to the library and get the book, Get Up. It really summarizes the work we did in the lab. It’s, of course, available on our favorite online website as well. And that’s great. But also places like have really high quality information on the Internet. And so please please make a decision to get up and move today and learn more from these various resources and make it happen for yourself.

Brett McKay: Fantastic. Well, James Levine, thanks for your time. It’s been a pleasure.

Dr. James Levine: It’s my pleasure as well. Thank you so much, Brett. I really enjoyed it.

Brett McKay: My guest today was Dr. James Levine. He’s the author of the book Get Up!: Why Your Chair is Killing You and What You Can do About It. Check out our show notes at, where you find links to resources where you can delve deeper into this topic.

Well, that wraps up another edition of the AOM podcast. Make sure to check out our website at and while you’re there, sign up for our newsletter. We got a weekly edition and a daily edition. They’re both free. It’s the best way to stay on top of what we’re doing at The Art of Manliness.

And if you haven’t done so already, I’d appreciate if you take one minute to give us a review on Apple podcast or Spotify. It helps out a lot. And if you’ve done that already, thank you. Please consider sharing the show with a friend or family member who you think would get something out of it. As always, thank you for the continued support. Until next time, it’s Brett McKay reminding you how to listen to ao podcast, but put what you’ve heard into action.

Help support independent publishing. Make a donation to The Art of Manliness! Thanks for the support!

Read More


By: Brett & Kate McKay
Title: Podcast #955: The Power of NEAT — Move a Little to Lose a Lot
Sourced From:
Published Date: Wed, 03 Jan 2024 16:17:40 +0000

Continue Reading

Mens Health

The Hazards and Blessings of Being Male: Embracing the Seven Challenges For a Successful Life

Captura de pantalla 2024 05 17 a las 20.33.26

Captura de pantalla 2024 05 17 a las 20.33.26 1
Photo by: Alexander Grey |

Although there have been infinite varieties of life forms that have evolved on Earth in the last 4 billion years, two life forms that are our male and female ancestors evolved a billion years ago. Here’s how this first sexual experience occurred according to cosmologist Dr. Brian Swimme and historian Dr. Thomas Berry in their book, The Universe Story.

The first male organism—they call him Tristan—and the first female organism—they call her Iseult—began life in the ancient oceans. Swimme and Berry describe their chance encounter this way:

“They were cast into the marine adventure, with its traumas of starvation and of predation. Able to nourish themselves but no longer capable of dividing into daughter cells, such primal living beings made their way through life until an almost certain death ended their 3-billion-year lineage.

A slight, an ever so slight, chance existed that a Tristan cell would come upon a corresponding Iseult cell.They would brush against each other, a contact similar to so many trillions of other encounters in their oceanic adventure. But with this one, something new would awaken. Something unsuspected and powerful and intelligent, as if they had drunk a magical elixir, would enter the flow of electricity through each organism.

Suddenly the very chemistry of their cell membranes would begin to change. Interactions evoked by newly functioning segments of her DNA would restructure the molecular web of Iseult’s skin, so that an act she had never experienced or planned for would begin to take place—Tristan entering her cell wholly.”

Of course no humans were there to record this original encounter, but we all have origin stories and this one resonates with me. Dates are never exact and change as more information is gathered. Here are some additional dates I found important in The Universe Story timeline:

  • 12 billion years ago, the universe begins.
  • 4 billion years ago life first emerges.
  • 1 billion years ago sexual reproduction evolves.
  • 216 million years ago the first mammals appear.
  • 30 million years ago the first apes inhabit the earth.
  • 2.6 million years ago the first humans appeared.
  • 200,000 years ago Archaic Homo sapiens evolved.
  • 10,600 years ago first settlements in the Middle East emerged and wheat and barley were cultivated.

Needless to say, we have a long evolutionary history to embrace. In their book, Solving Modern Problems with a Stone-Age Brain, Douglas T. Kenrick, PhD and David E. Lundberg-Kenrick describe seven evolutionary challenges we must all face and embrace. They offer a visual summary as a revision of Maslow’s original Hierarchy of Human Needs which they call The New Pyramid of Human Motives:


The Seven Challenges for a Successful Life

            During the billion years of life, all organisms must embrace these challenges and they are particularly relevant beginning with our mammalian history. In their book, the Kenricks ask, “What are the fundamental problems of human existence?” They go on to share the results of their research.

“Together with a large team of researchers at more than 30 universities on five continents, we have been investigating the universal motivations faced by human beings around the globe.”

Here is a summary of their findings:

  • Survive.

We must meet our basic physiological needs for shelter from the elements,

water, and food.

  • Protect yourself from attackers and plunderers.

Given the scarcity of resources and the ever-present possibility of starvation, there has always been competition among different groups (most often the male members) for precious real estate and resources (including access to females).

  • Make and keep friends.

As the Kenricks remind us. “Our ancestors were not rugged individualists.

They need to band together not only to protect themselves from bands of

marauding bad guys but also to accomplish most of the tasks of everyday life.”

  • Get some respect.

Some people have always been more resourceful and clever than others and

some were more willing to bravely defend their groups against armed marauders.

Those resourceful and courageous individuals won higher status and gained

greater respect.

  • Find a mate.

“From the perspective of evolution by natural selection,” say the Kenricks, “this

step is essential. Every one of our ancestors managed to attract at least one

person who wanted to make with them. Not everybody in the ancient world got

to reproduce, though, and a reasonable percentage of men went unmated.” This

fact, is of major importance when understanding male desires, fears, and


  • Hang on to that mate.

From an evolutionary perspective, we not only have to find a mate who will have

sex with us, but we need to hold on to our mate long enough to have a child and

raise the child to maturity, so they can find a mate and continue the process.

  • Care for your family members.

Unlike other animals, human males are much more involved with raising children, since human children require long-term care before they reach reproductive age.

Males and Females Are Alike and Also Different

Males and females are alike in that they must both successfully meet the seven challenges noted above. However, there are also significant evolutionary differences. These differences first came home to me when I first met psychologist David M. Buss and read his book, The Evolution of Desire: Strategies of Human Mating.

“If mating desires and other features of human psychology are products of our evolutionary history,” says Dr. Buss, “they should be found universally, not just in the United States.”

To test his theories, he conducted a five-year study working with collaborators from thirty-seven cultures located on six continents and five islands. All major racial groups, religious groups, and ethnic groups were represented. In all, his research team surveyed 10,047 persons world-wide.

Dr. Buss concluded that there are actually two human natures, one male, the other female. What do women really want? Buss found that the top three qualities that women look for in men are exactly the same as those things that men look for in women: Intelligence, kindness, and love. Then, what women want diverges from what men want.

“Women then look at a man’s ability to protect her and her children, his capacity to provide, and his willingness to make commitment to a relationship,” says Buss.

What do men really want?

“A man is drawn to youth and beauty,”

says Buss.

“This interest is not just a modern desire driven by advertising and male desire to control women [though advertisers take advantage of our evolutionary-driven desires]. It is a universal desire based on evolutionary pressures for reproductive success. Men who mated with women who were incapable of bearing children left no ancestors. Every man alive today is descended from men who did not make that mistake. Worldwide, men are drawn to younger women.”

Note: Just because we have these evolutionary-based desires does not mean we must act on them, that they are good for us, or will make us, or the partners we desire, happy. It also does not mean they are hard-wired into our biological makeup and can’t be changed. It does mean that we must take seriously our evolutionary-based desires and listen to the ancient “whisperings within” that pull us in certain directions.

The Hazards and Blessings of Gender-Specific Health

The ancient Roman philosopher, Virgil offers a simple truth to consider.

“The greatest wealth is health.”

A modern American medical doctor, Marianne J. Legato, M.D., world-renowned cardiologist and founder of The Foundation For Gender-Specific Medicine, says,

“The premature death of men is the most important—and neglected—health issue of our time.”

Although human males, as a group, occupy more positions of power in government and business than women, it has come at a price. This was first brought home to me by psychologist Herb Goldberg, in his book 1976, The Hazards of Being Male.

“The male has paid a heavy price for his masculine ‘privilege’ and power. He is out of touch with his emotions and his body. He is playing by the rules of the male game plan and with lemming-like purpose he is destroying himself—emotionally, psychologically and physically.”

In recent years we have learned a lot more about the realities of being male.

“If it’s true that men rule the world, it comes at a heavy cost,”

says Dr. Legato.

“From conception until death, men are inherently more fragile and vulnerable than women. In virtually every society today, men die first.”

Dr. Legato offers the following facts of life:

  • The male fetus is less likely to survive the womb than the female.
  • Boys are six weeks behind in developmental maturity at birth compared to girls.
  • Men have four times the developmental disabilities of females.
  • Men suffer more severely than women from seven of the ten most common infections that human experience [Including Covid-19].
  • Men are likely to experience the first ravages of coronary artery disease in their mid-thirties, a full 15 or 20 years before women.
  • Twice as many men die of heart disease, the leading cause of all deaths, than do women.
  • Men die by suicide 4 times more than women.
  • Murder and homicide are among the top four killers of men from the time they are born until heart disease and cancers begin to claim those who survive into middle age.

Accepting the realities of our own inherent weakness and vulnerabilities instead of trying to pretend we are masters of the universe is the first step we just take to begin our own healing and recovery.

I have been writing a series of articles on the Future of Men’s Mental Health. In Part 3, “Gender-Specific Healing and Man Therapy,” I explore my own healing journey and issues that address the unique problems faced by men and how the emerging field of Gender-Specific Healing and Men’s Health is a key to the future of health care. If you’d like more information about upcoming trainings, drop me an email to and put “Gender-Specific Health Training” in the subject line.

The post The Hazards and Blessings of Being Male: Embracing the Seven Challenges For a Successful Life appeared first on MenAlive.

Read More


By: Jed Diamond
Title: The Hazards and Blessings of Being Male: Embracing the Seven Challenges For a Successful Life
Sourced From:
Published Date: Sat, 18 May 2024 02:41:58 +0000

Did you miss our previous article…

Continue Reading

Mens Health

The James Bond Workout

James Bond Workout 2

Illustration titled "The James Bond Workout" depicting six exercises: 20 slow push-ups, straight leg lifts, toe touches, chair dips, deep breathing, culminating in a hot and cold shower.

When you have a license to kill, you’ve got to keep yourself in tip-top shape.

So what did James Bond do for his workout? 

From the James Bond novels, we know that 007 liked to do all sorts of physical activities that could count as exercise: boxing, judo, swimming, and skiing. He was also a golfer, so he got some activity in that way.

As a Commander in the Royal Navy Reserve, Bond likely incorporated some of the calisthenics he learned from the military into his workout routine. It’s possible that he even drew inspiration from the Cold War HIIT workout, 5BX. 

You can see these influences in the workout 007 does in From Russia With Love. In that novel (one of the 5 best books in the Bond canon), Fleming describes a short calisthenics routine that his secret agent does that’s capped off with a “James Bond shower”:

There was only one way to deal with boredom — kick oneself out of it. Bond went down on his hands and did twenty slow press-ups, lingering over each one so that his muscles had no rest. When his arms could stand the pain no longer, he rolled over on his back and, with his hands at his sides, did the straight leg-lift until his stomach muscles screamed. He got to his feet and, after touching his toes twenty times, went over to arm and chest exercises combined with deep breathing until he was dizzy. Panting with the exertion, he went into the big white-tiled bathroom and stood in the glass shower cabinet under very hot and then cold hissing water for five minutes. 

A pretty quick and straightforward bodyweight workout, that we’ve illustrated for reference above. With one adaptation: Bond scholars and aficionados have never figured out exactly what Fleming meant by “arm and chest exercises.” We substituted chair dips; they work both the arms and chest. You can imagine in your own arm and chest exercise if you’d like. Performing that portion of the workout, and all the rest of them, in a tux with a pistol and martini glass on hand is optional, but highly encouraged if you’re an operative training to face the unique challenges of international espionage. 

Illustrated by Ted Slampyak

Help support independent publishing. Make a donation to The Art of Manliness! Thanks for the support!

Read More


By: Brett & Kate McKay
Title: The James Bond Workout
Sourced From:
Published Date: Thu, 16 May 2024 17:20:27 +0000

Did you miss our previous article…

Continue Reading

Mens Health

Man or Bear: What Evolutionary Science Can Tell Us About Male Violence and How to Stay Safe

Captura de pantalla 2024 05 08 a las 17.49.44

Captura de pantalla 2024 05 08 a las 17.49.44 1
Photo by: Mark Basarab /

Have you been following the discussion that began with a question to a small group of women: If you were alone in the woods, would you rather encounter a bear or a man? The great majority of the women answered, “a bear” and explained that they would feel safer encountering a bear in the forest than a man they didn’t know. The hypothetical question has sparked a broader discussion about why women fear men.

I’d like to share my own experiences. I will start by laying my cards on the table so you know my biases from the outset:

  • I have been a man all my life which now totals 80 years.
  • I was born in New York City, grew up in Los Angeles, and have lived in cities most of my life where I never encountered a bear or any other wild animal.
  • I am a psychotherapist, author of 17 books about men and their relationships, and have worked with what many consider “dangerous men” in jails, prisons, and treatment centers.
  • In 1991 my wife and I moved out of the city, bought land in the hills of Mendocino County outside a small town of Willits, California and I had my first encounter with wild animals including several bears.

The impetus for our move to the country began when I was diagnosed with a rare adrenal tumor which kills most people before they know they have it. Luckily, I didn’t die. My doctor made the diagnosis—a pheochromocytoma. I had emergency surgery and the tumor was removed.

When I asked the doctors what caused me to get a tumor, they didn’t know. “Maybe genetics, maybe bad luck, who knows?” they told me. Well, I believe we all have an inner healer who does know. I asked and the answer I got was clear and concise:

Inner Healer to Jed: Adrenal tumor, adrenaline! Don’t you get it? You’ve living in stressful environments for way too long. You have to slow down.

Jed to Inner Healer: I have slowed down. I was born to New York, pretty high-stressed place. We moved to Los Angeles where I grew up and went to school, a lower stress place. Now we live in Mellow Marin County. I’ve been slowing down, really I have.

Inner Healer to Jed: I do hear you. You have slowed down, New York, Los Angeles, Marin. You’ve gotten your stress score down from 100 to an 88. But you have to get it down to a 9.

Jed to Inner Healer: You’ve got to be kidding me, a 9! I’d have to change my whole life!!!

Inner Healer to Jed: Yep.

So, we found a little cabin on 22 acres of land and moved in and I planned to relax more. It was quiet and peaceful and the neighbors were nice. But the truth was, everything scared me. It was too quiet. After we had been there a month and I was sitting on a ridge overlooking a valley, I heard a very faint sound. So soft, I wasn’t even sure it was there. I finally realized that what I was hearing was the sound of my eye lashes blinking. I was used to the sounds of a big city. It was difficult to think with only the sounds of silence to keep me company.

            What really scared me, though, were the animal sounds I would hear at night. I was determined to follow my inner healer’s advice and learn to slow down and relax. I knew I needed to settle into my new surroundings. There was  a deck at the end of our property where I often went to think about my future. I decided I would learn to address my anxieties and fears by sleeping outside every night during the first summer we were there.

Each night after dinner, I would walk in the dark from our house to the deck, about a ten-minute walk, where I would spend the night. I walked first with a flashlight, then stop, turn it off, and listen to the night sounds. I would hear the bugs, birds, and small animals moving through the brush. I would snuggle up in my sleeping bag and gradually I got used to the night sounds and got to know the creatures that lived in my new neighborhood in the woods.

One morning as I was just waking up I saw a large animal coming my way on a narrow trail that led away from my deck where I slept. At first I didn’t know what it was. It was bigger than a big dog but walked differently. It didn’t take me long to realize that a large black bear was walking towards me.

My mouth went dry, my heart began to pound. I didn’t know what to do. Should I yell and try and scare him away? Should I run and hide? I had no idea. What I finally did was to start talking very fast: “Ah…bear…I’m Jed, I don’t have anything you would want to eat, including me, I know this is your home, I just moved here, I really want to be a good neighbor, please don’t hurt me, I…”

I ran out of words and the bear stopped a hundred feet from me. I looked at him (or her? I had no idea) and he looked at me. And I wondered whether the next thing would be a bear at my throat. Instead, he turned around and walked back down the path.

It was a strange rite of passage for this city boy. I felt like he had decided that I was definitely a little strange but I was OK. He came back periodically when I wasn’t there. I could tell because he marked his territory by scratching marks on the posts of my deck. I had a number of encounters with bears, a few real scary one when we encountered a mamma bear with her cubs and she reared up on her hind legs and barked her cubs up a three. I bowed low and slowly backed away. I had a healthy respect for bears and other wild animals but we got to know each other.

Not so, when I had my first encounter with a strange man. One morning I was walking on my property and suddenly a strange man turned the corner on the trail. I yelled, turned around and ran. I looked over my shoulder to see if he was chasing me and realized that he was running away, looking over his shoulder to see if I was chasing him.

We both stopped running and slowly approached each other cautiously. I told him I owned this property and told me he was visiting neighbors and had gone for a walk and gotten lost the night before. He had slept out all night and was trying to find his way back when he ran into me. I drove him back to the neighbors who saw me as a hero for finding their friend and we shared stories about our encounters with bears and men.

What Evolutionary Science Can Teach Us About Bears and Men and How to Stay Safe

We can’t understand bears, men, or how to be safe unless we know something about evolutionary science. In their book The Universe Story, cosmologist Dr. Brian Swimme and historian Dr. Thomas Berry, share our evolutionary history. Here are a few key players and the dates they joined the party:

  • 12 billion years ago, the universe began with a bang.
  • 4 billion years ago life first emerged.
  • 216 million years ago the first mammals appeared.
  • 55 million years ago the first bear-like animals evolved.
  • 2.6 million years ago the first humans, Homo habilis, walked the earth.

In a recent book, Solving Modern Problems with a Stone-Age Brain, evolutionary psychologists Douglas T. Kenrick and David E. Lunberg-Kenrick, detail the seven fundamental problems the humans have faced since we arrived. We have to:

  1. Survive by meeting our basic needs for water, food, and shelter.
  2. Protect ourselves from attackers and plunderers.
  3. Make and keep friends.
  4. Gain status and respect from our fellow tribal members.
  5. Find a mate.
  6. Hang on to that mate.
  7. Focus on family and raise good children.

What they say about basic challenges number 1 and 2, can help us better understand how to stay safe in today’s world. The first step is clear. We must get what we need to survive or our story ends here. All our direct ancestors survived and completed all seven steps.

They go on to talk about the reality that in our evolutionary past, as well as in modern times, we have a lot more to fear from men than we do from wild animals. In the Bronx Zoo, there is a classic sign on one exhibit that advertised, “World’s Most Dangerous Predator.” Above the sign was a mirror.

            Humans truly are a dangerous species and the danger is most commonly coming from men. Whether you are venturing into the remote unexplored jungles where modern hunter-gatherers live or looking at death rates from our evolutionary past, Dr. Kenrick and other evolutionary-informed scientists have found that men are the more violent half of humanity.

“The odds that a stranger is a potential threat to your physical safety are many times higher if that stranger is a male. They are especially high if he is a young adult male and if he is with a group of other young adult males.”

So, it is natural that women, and men, would be more fearful of meeting an unknown man in the woods than a bear. But the fact that our modern brains still have the old wiring from our evolutionary past, does not mean that we should be afraid of all bears or all men. As I learned, we are all safer when we learn about the others who we will encounter in our lives.

I learned to get comfortable with the bears who lived in my neighborhood. I also learned I could talk to the bears, let them know I was no threat, and I imagined they would listen. I found out I could overcome my immediate reaction to flee or fight when confronted by an unknown male. I could stop and realize we were both afraid of each other and taking time to calm down and talk helped us both connect in a positive way.

What I have learned from evolutionary science is that most wild animals can be our friends and so can most men. The way to be safer in the world is to connect more deeply with ourselves, each other, and this beautiful planet we all share.

            One more point. Humans have certainly done our evolutionary job well in populating the world. We don’t need more and more people, but we could certainly use more wisdom from our animal elders. As Thomas Berry reminds us,

“We never knew enough. Nor were we sufficiently intimate with all our cousins in the great family of the earth. Nor could we listen to the various creatures of the earth, each telling its own story. The time has now come, however, when we will listen or we will die.”

I have worked with a lot of dangerous and violent men in my life. I agree with the world of psychologist James Hollis. “Men’s lives are violent because their souls have been violated.” I invite those interested to check out our Moonshot for Mankind.

The post Man or Bear: What Evolutionary Science Can Tell Us About Male Violence and How to Stay Safe appeared first on MenAlive.

Read More


By: Jed Diamond
Title: Man or Bear: What Evolutionary Science Can Tell Us About Male Violence and How to Stay Safe
Sourced From:
Published Date: Wed, 08 May 2024 23:46:04 +0000

Did you miss our previous article…

Continue Reading