“Hi, I am a single mother of three children under 5. I don’t have a car, so I have to walk everywhere. I’m trying to get started exercising but I don’t seem to have the energy.”
We see posts like that in Mark’s Daily Apple Forums all the time. My answer is that she is getting the same exercise as her grandmothers for the last 3-4 million years since we came down out of trees. I say to get what rest she can and maybe do some yoga or Pilates.
Rest is just as important as exercise in fitness. And diet is far more important than both.
Someone will always object that cavewomen spent lots of time gathering. Duh. If you have ever had children, you know that you do lots of gathering.
If the mom (or dad for that matter) asking about exercise has a sedentary job, someone will object that cavewomen didn’t sit at a desk all day. True. Then she needs to take opportunities to stand during the day, e.g. when on the phone. You need to get up and move around a bit at least once an hour. See Sitting is Killing You.
Sprints are a super-fast way to make a huge difference in your health although they are not essential for health. Cavewomen probably didn’t do many sprints, certainly not a set of eight every week. “But what about running from lions?” Pfft! If you try to run from a lion, you won’t even get in one 30 second sprint before you are eaten. Maybe cavewomen sometimes chased down small prey or runaway kids.
Resistance work (“lifting”) is essential to long-term health. Cavewomen may have done lots of it. But you don’t have to lift a lot to get the benefits. One or two intense sessions per week are enough.
Lifting: You get lots of this both from housework and childcare. Like Milo the Greek who lifted a bull everyday from the the time it was small you will be lifting increased weight. Aside from the inevitable “I’m tired carry me,” do the stuff kids like such as lifting them up in the air, swinging them around, lying on your back lifting them above you, and so on.
Sprints: When the kids are toddlers you may decide to do a sprint session once a week. But once they can run you can do chasing games. Again, sprints are not essential, but they are very good for you. But I find that a full on sprint session leaves me tired for the rest of the day. You don’t need that.
Lots of moderate movement: Duh
This all assumes you are actively parenting. It doesn’t apply if you just sit in front of the TV yelling “Stop that!” and “Get out of that!”
In the forums, helpful people will say “Oh, you should try what I do for exercise. It only costs $150/month and you only have to do it five days a week.” Parents, ignore those nice, helpful people. Get play, rest and relaxation. Those are a part of Primal just as much as exercise.
If you take time away from playing with your children to go beat yourself up at the gym, you are depriving yourself and them. Play is one of the 10 points of Primal. See video of Mark’s presentation on play at the Ancestral Health Symposium.