How running made us human

Public release date 17-Nov-2004

Contact: Dennis Bramble, professor of biology
bramble@bioscience.utah.edu 
801-581-3549 (office)
University of Utah

Lee Siegel, science news specialist
leesiegel@ucomm.utah.edu
801-581-8993 (office) / 801-244-5399 (cellular)
University of Utah Public Relations

To contact Dan Lieberman, call Steve Bradt
steve_bradt@harvard.edu
617-496-8070
Harvard University Communications

 University of Utah

Endurance running let us evolve to look the way we do

Humans evolved from ape-like ancestors because they needed to run long distances – perhaps to hunt animals or scavenge carcasses on Africa’s vast savannah – and the ability to run shaped our anatomy, making us look like we do today.

That is the conclusion of a study published in the Nov. 18 issue of the journal Nature by University of Utah biologist Dennis Bramble and Harvard University anthropologist Daniel Lieberman. The study is featured on Nature’s cover.

Bramble and Lieberman argue that our genus, Homo, evolved from more ape-like human ancestors, Australopithecus, 2 million or more years ago because natural selection favored the survival of australopithecines that could run and, over time, favored the perpetuation of human anatomical features that made long-distance running possible.

“We are very confident that strong selection for running – which came at the expense of the historical ability to live in trees – was instrumental in the origin of the modern human body form,” says Bramble, a professor of biology. “Running has substantially shaped human evolution. Running made us human – at least in an anatomical sense. We think running is one of the most transforming events in human history. We are arguing the emergence of humans is tied to the evolution of running.”

That conclusion is contrary to the conventional theory that running simply was a byproduct of the human ability to walk. Bipedalism – the ability to walk upright on two legs – evolved in the ape-like Australopithecus at least 4.5 million years ago while they also retained the ability to travel through the trees. Yet Homo with its “radically transformed body” did not evolve for another 3 million or more years – Homo habilis, Homo erectus and, finally, our species, Homo sapiens – so the ability to walk cannot explain anatomy of the modern human body, Bramble says.

“There were 2.5 million to 3 million years of bipedal walking [by australopithecines] without ever looking like a human, so is walking going to be what suddenly transforms the hominid body?” he asks. “We’re saying, no, walking won’t do that, but running will.”

Walking cannot explain most of the changes in body form that distinguish Homo from Australopithecus, which – when compared with Homo – had short legs, long forearms, high permanently “shrugged” shoulders, ankles that were not visibly apparent and more muscles connecting the shoulders to the head and neck, Bramble says. If natural selection had not favored running, “we would still look a lot like apes,” he adds.

I Run, Therefore I Am

Bramble and Lieberman examined 26 traits of the human body – many also seen in fossils of Homo erectus and some in Homo habilis – that enhanced the ability to run. Only some of them were needed for walking. Traits that aided running include leg and foot tendons and ligaments that act like springs, foot and toe structure that allows efficient use of the feet to push off, shoulders that rotate independently of the head and neck to allow better balance, and skeletal and muscle features that make the human body stronger, more stable and able to run more efficiently without overheating.

“We explain the simultaneous emergence of a whole bunch of anatomical features, literally from head to toe,” Bramble says. “We have a hypothesis that gives a functional explanation for how these features are linked to the unique mechanical demands of running, how they work together and why they emerged at the same time.”

Humans are poor sprinters compared with other running animals, which is partly why many scientists have dismissed running as a factor in human evolution. Human endurance running ability has been inadequately appreciated because of a failure to recognize that “high speed is not always important,” Bramble says. “What is important is combining reasonable speed with exceptional endurance.”

Another reason is that “scientists are in developed societies that are highly dependent on technology and artificial means of transport,” he adds. “But if those scientists had been embedded in a hunter-gatherer society, they’d have a different view of human locomotor abilities, including running.”

Why Did Humans Start Running?

The researchers do not know why natural selection favored human ancestors who could run long distances. For one possibility, they cite previous research by University of Utah biologist David Carrier, who hypothesized that endurance running evolved in human ancestors so they could pursue predators long before the development of bows, arrows, nets and spear-throwers reduced the need to run long distances.

Another possibility is that early humans and their immediate ancestors ran to scavenge carcasses of dead animals – maybe so they could beat hyenas or other scavengers to dinner, or maybe to “get to the leftovers soon enough,” Bramble says.

Scavenging “is a more reliable source of food” than hunting, he adds. “If you are out in the African savannah and see a column of vultures on the horizon, the chance of there being a fresh carcass underneath the vultures is about 100 percent. If you are going to hunt down something in the heat, that’s a lot more work and the payoffs are less reliable” because the animal you are hunting often is “faster than you are.”

Anatomical Features that Help Humans Run

Here are anatomical characteristics that are unique to humans and that play a role in helping people run, according to the study:

 

  • Skull features that help prevent overheating during running. As sweat evaporates from the scalp, forehead and face, the evaporation cools blood draining from the head. Veins carrying that cooled blood pass near the carotid arteries, thus helping cool blood flowing through the carotids to the brain.

 

 

  • A more balanced head with a flatter face, smaller teeth and short snout, compared with australopithecines. That “shifts the center of mass back so it’s easier to balance your head when you are bobbing up and down running,” Bramble says.

 

 

  • A ligament that runs from the back of the skull and neck down to the thoracic vertebrae, and acts as a shock absorber and helps the arms and shoulders counterbalance the head during running.

 

 

  • Unlike apes and australopithecines, the shoulders in early humans were “decoupled” from the head and neck, allowing the body to rotate while the head aims forward during running.

 

 

  • The tall human body – with a narrow trunk, waist and pelvis – creates more skin surface for our size, permitting greater cooling during running. It also lets the upper and lower body move independently, “which allows you to use your upper body to counteract the twisting forces from your swinging legs,” Bramble says.

 

 

  • Shorter forearms in humans make it easier for the upper body to counterbalance the lower body during running. They also reduce the amount of muscle power needed to keep the arms flexed when running.

 

 

  • Human vertebrae and disks are larger in diameter relative to body mass than are those in apes or australopithecines. “This is related to shock absorption,” says Bramble. “It allows the back to take bigger loads when human runners hit the ground.”

 

 

  • The connection between the pelvis and spine is stronger and larger relative to body size in humans than in their ancestors, providing more stability and shock absorption during running.

 

 

  • Human buttocks “are huge,” says Bramble. “Have you ever looked at an ape? They have no buns.” He says human buttocks “are muscles critical for stabilization in running” because they connect the femur – the large bone in each upper leg – to the trunk. Because people lean forward at the hip during running, the buttocks “keep you from pitching over on your nose each time a foot hits the ground.”

 

 

  • Long legs, which chimps and australopithecines lack, let humans to take huge strides when running, Bramble says. So do ligaments and tendons – including the long Achilles tendon – which act like springs that store and release mechanical energy during running. The tendons and ligaments also mean human lower legs that are less muscular and lighter, requiring less energy to move them during running.

 

 

  • Larger surface areas in the hip, knee and ankle joints, for improved shock absorption during running by spreading out the forces.

 

 

  • The arrangement of bones in the human foot creates a stable or stiff arch that makes the whole foot more rigid, so the human runner can push off the ground more efficiently and utilize ligaments on the bottom of the feet as springs.

 

 

  • Humans also evolved with an enlarged heel bone for better shock absorption, as well as shorter toes and a big toe that is fully drawn in toward the other toes for better pushing off during running.

 

The study by Bramble and Lieberman concludes: “Today, endurance running is primarily a form of exercise and recreation, but its roots may be as ancient as the origin of the human genus, and its demands a major contributing factor to the human body form.”

University of Utah Public Relations

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Chronic Exercise Preserves Lean Muscle Mass in Masters Athletes

A  study called, “Chronic Exercise Preserves Lean Muscle Mass in Masters Athletes,” which you can read HERE graphically illustrates what happens to your muscles (with and without) the type of regular and beneficial exercise that the sport of triathlon provides. The image above  is a cross section of a 40-year-old triathlete’s legs and the associated muscle. But the  other two images are the really interesting and telling ones. As you can tell, the 74-year-old masters triathlete’s legs are not unlike that of the 40-year-old triathlete’s legs. The study’s authors go on to write: “It is commonly believed that with aging comes an inevitable decline from vitality to frailty. This includes feeling weak and often the loss of independence. These declines may have more to do with lifestyle choices, including sedentary living and poor nutrition, than the absolute potential of musculoskeletal aging. In this study, we sought to eliminate the confounding variables of sedentary living and muscle disuse, and answer the question of what really happens to our muscles as we age if we are chronically active. This study and those discussed here show that we are capable of preserving both muscle mass and strength with lifelong physical activity.” They conclude by writing: “The loss of lean muscle mass and the resulting subjective and objective weakness experienced with sedentary aging imposes significant but modifiable personal, societal, and economic burdens. As sports medicine clinicians, we must encourage people to become or remain active at all ages. This study, and those reviewed here, document the possibility to maintain muscle mass and strength across the ages via simple lifestyle changes.” 40 yo triathlete   I am referring to that study in the book i wrote: Triathlon, Loving it is easy

THE COOPER TEST, AN ENDURANCE TEST OF 12 MINUTES OF RUNNING.

The Cooper test is a test of physical fitness that was designed by Kenneth H. Cooper in 1968 for use by the US military. Its execution is very simple. You have to run (or walk) for 12 minutes, attempting to cover the largest possible distance. Before trying this, it would be a good idea for you to consult a doctor, since it is an exhausting test when executed correctly. Also, remember to do a decent warm-up. For the optimal calculation you will want to do the test on a 400-meter running track (0.25 miles). Record holder is Kenenisa Bekele, who ran a distance of 3 miles (4750 meters) in 12 minutes.

MAXIMAL OXYGEN CONSUMPTION VO2MAX
We use the term VO2Max to refer to the maximal amount of oxygen that the body can consume during strenuous exercise, which determines the highest boundary at which an endurance exercise can be performed. Essentially, the Maximal Oxygen Consumption refers to the maximal cardiorespiratory function and it can largely predict the maximal aerobic capacity and endurance. For a precise calculation of the VO2Max, you should go to an exercise physiology lab. However, there is also an amateur technique to calculate it based on your Cooper test results:
(The distance you ran in meters – 504.9) / 44.73
For example, at this test I ran 3200 meters.
3200 – 504.9 = 2695.1
2695.1 / 44.73 = 60.25 mls/kg/min
No matter how much of an amateur technique this is, I would like to point out that for the last 5-6 years I have been going to an exercise physiology lab twice a year to calculate my VO2Max and it always ranges between 57-61 mls/kg/min, depending on the training period.

Cooper test results evaluation

Age group Sex Very good Good Average Bad Very bad
13-14 year Male >2700 m 2400 – 2700 m 2200 – 2400 m 2100 – 2200 m <2100 m
Female >2000 m 1900 – 2000 m 1600 – 1900 m 1500 – 1600 m <1500 m
15-16 year Male >2800 m 2500 – 2800 m 2300 – 2500 m 2200 – 2300 m <2200 m
Female >2100 m 2000 – 2100 m 1700 – 2000 m 1600 – 1700 m <1600 m
17-20 year Male >3000 m 2700 – 3000 m 2500 – 2700 m 2300 – 2500 m <2300 m
Female >2300 m 2100 – 2300 m 1800 – 2100 m 1700 – 1800 m <1700 m
20-29 year Male >2800 m 2400 – 2800 m 2200 – 2400 m 1600 – 2200 m <1600 m
Female >2700 m 2200 – 2700 m 1800 – 2200 m 1500 – 1800 m <1500 m
30-39 year Male >2700 m 2300 – 2700 m 1900 – 2300 m 1500 – 1900 m <1500 m
Female >2500 m 2000 – 2500 m 1700 – 2000 m 1400 – 1700 m <1400 m
40-49 year Male >2500 m 2100 – 2500 m 1700 – 2100 m 1400 – 1700 m <1400 m
Female >2300 m 1900 – 2300 m 1500 – 1900 m 1200 – 1500 m <1200 m
>50 year Male >2400 m 2000 – 2400 m 1600 – 2000 m 1300 – 1600 m <1300 m
Female >2200 m 1700 – 2200 m 1400 – 1700 m 1100 – 1400 m <1100 m

For experienced athletes

Sex Very good Good Average Bad Very bad
Male >3700 m 3400 – 3700 m 3100 – 3400 m 2800 – 3100 m <2800 m
Female >3000 m 2700 – 3000 m 2400 – 2700 m 2100 – 2400 m <2100  m

This article is a chapter of the book I have written: Triathlon: Loving it is easy.

What Parents Should Say as Their Kids Perform

By Tim Elmore

In my work at Growing Leaders, we enjoy the privilege of serving numerous NCAA and professional sports teams each year. After meeting with hundreds of coaches and athletes, I noticed an issue kept surfacing in our conversations. Both the student-athlete and the coach were trying to solve the same problem.  What was that problem?

The parents of the student-athletes.

kids perform

You may or may not believe this, but even in Division One athletics, parents stay engaged with their child’s sport, often at the same level they did through their growing up years. Moms will call coaches and advise them on how to encourage their daughter or son. Dads will call coaches and ask why their kid isn’t getting more playing time. Parents will call strength and conditioning coaches and inquire what they’re doing about their child’s torn ligament. Each of these calls is understandable. After all, no one has more at stake than the parent of a performer. They love their child, they’ve invested in their child and they want to see a “return on their investment.” Some athletes refer to their mom as their P.A. (personal assistant) or their agent. I know a mother who watches her collegiate daughter’s gymnastics practice behind the glass, all the while, calling and leaving voicemails for the coach on what should be done for her little girl. I even know sets of parents who moved into a condo across the street from their freshman athlete’s university. They didn’t want to miss a thing, and they certainly didn’t want to neglect to provide direction. I understand this. I am a father of two kids myself.

What we parents may not recognize is the pressure and angst this kind of involvement applies. May I tell you what student-athletes are telling me?

  1. I love my mom, but when she does this, I get the feeling she doesn’t trust me.
  2. My parents are great, but I feel like I have multiple coaches telling me what to do and I get stressed out over it.
  3. I’m getting blackballed by my teammates because my mother keeps texting me and my coach, to give suggestions. I wish she would chill.
  4. I feel like I’m never quite good enough; I can never fully please my parents.

Moving From Supervisor to Consultant

According to years of research on athletes, I believe parents have a more productive impact on their kids by making a change in their style. When our kids were younger, we played the role of supervisor. We were right there on top of the issues. And we should be—they were young and needed our support. As they age, parents must move to the role of consultant. We’re still involved, still supportive, but we allow our kids to grow up and self-regulate. When we fail to do this—we can actually stunt their growth. It’s a bit like teaching our kids to ride a bike. Remember this process?  First, we gave them a tricycle. The three wheels made it almost impossible for them to fall off, and they got used to peddling a vehicle. Then, they moved to a bicycle. It was bigger and had only two wheels. A little more scary. So we initiated them on that bike with training wheels. That prevented bad accidents. Eventually, however, we took the training wheels off, and our involvement became a tender balance of two ingredients: support and letting go. Did you catch that? Support and letting go.

What We Should Say When Our Kids Perform

The most liberating words parents can speak to their student-athletes are quite simple. Based on psychological research, the three healthiest statements moms and dads can make as they perform are:

Before the Competition:                                    After the competition:

  1. Have fun.                                                    1. Did you have fun?
  2. Play hard.                                                    2. I’m proud of you.
  3. I love you.                                                    3. I love you.

Six Simple Words…

For years, I wondered what the student-athlete would say about this issue. After decades of work with athletes, Bruce E. Brown and Rob Miller found out. They suggest six simple words parents can express that produce the most positive results in their performing children. After interacting with students, they report:

College athletes were asked what their parents said that made them feel great, that amplified their joy during and after a ballgame. Their overwhelming response:

“I love to watch you play.”

That’s it. Those six words. How interesting. How liberating to the parent. How empowering to the student-athlete. No pressure. No correction. No judgment. (That’s the coach’s job). Just pure love of their child using their gift in competition.

When I learned this, I reflected on the years my own kids competed in sports, recitals, theatrical plays, and practices. Far too often, I wanted to play a role that added more stress to their life. Instead, I now realize—I just need to love them. And to love watching them play.

From a parent’s view—this is the best way to cultivate an emotionally healthy kid

– See more at: http://growingleaders.com/blog/what-parents-should-say-as-their-kids-perform/#sthash.R2u0etVy.dpuf

Cyprus Troodos 15 k trail run 2013 video

Watch the video from this year’s trail race that took place in mount Troodos

Sweet 452 km – a report on the first type 1 diabetes patient to finish Double Ironman, a 30-hour endurance triathlon race

Croat Med J. 2013 June; 54(3): 306–307.

Scientific research of type 1 diabetes patients is often limited by ethical or technical reasons. Therefore, when people with diabetes decide to push their own limits and stretch the limits of our knowledge on their own, we can just observe and try to alleviate possible dangers. Here we would like to present a case of the first type 1 diabetes patient to safely complete the Double Ironman triathlon race. The race consisted of consecutive 7.6 km of swimming, 360 km of cycling, and 84.4 km of running.

History and examination

The 27-year old patient has suffered from type 1 diabetes from his 6th year and used various insulin forms: Homologue+Homorap combination from age 6 to 11 years, Actrapid+Insulatard from age 9 to 21, and Novorapid+Lantus from the age of 22 till present. Before he started to compete in triathlons 3 years ago, the patient had had a history of obesity and badly regulated blood glucose level and calorie intake with frequent episodes of hypoglycemia.

After having entered a structured swimming, cycling, and running program he finished shorter triathlon distances and after 2 years in training completed the Ironman triathlon (3.8 km swimming, 180 km cycling, and 42.2 km running). This resulted not only in athletic achievement but also helped him to maintain normal body mass index, regulate blood glucose, and terminate hypoglycemic episodes. The usual insulin application was 25-30 IU/d administered by an insulin pen depending on calorie intake and training. The patient trained 2 hours on weekdays and up to 10 hours on weekend. The next goal was Double Ironman.

The race report

During the 30 hours of race, blood glucose, calorie, and fluid intake were measured and insulin was applied. Complete blood count, and metabolic and biochemical parameters were measured 1 hour before the race, as well as 1 hour, 24 hours, and 7 days after the race. The race started at 16:00 with swimming. The air temperature was 29°C and the water temperature was 24°C. The cycling portion started at 19:27 and lasted until 10:15 next day, the air temperature staying around 20°C. The running portion started at 10:15 and finished at 21:10. During the day, the air temperature rose up to 35°C. Since scientific investigation had only secondary importance, measurements of blood glucose were taken at athlete’s will, 46 times. Blood glucose was measured approximately every 30 minutes during the swimming segment and every 45 to 90 minutes during cycling and running. During swimming, higher levels of blood glucose were maintained to avoid hypoglycemia (Figure 1). Calorie intake during the entire 29 hours and 15 minutes of racing was approximately 16 000 kcal in various foods and fluids, while the fluid intake was 23 L in the form of isotonic drinks, water, and sweetened beverages. During the race, only 18 IU of Novorapid was applied, primarily after hyperglycemic episodes during transition stops between swimming-cycling and cycling-running portions.

Figure 1

Blood glucose during the race.

All the blood parameters 1 hour before the race were within the reference range. HbA1C measurement 2 days before the race was 5.5. One hour after the finish several parameters were elevated: leukocytes were 14.5 × 109, bilirubin 23.3 µmol/L, urea 8.9 mmol/L, creatinine 110 µmol/L, CRP 18.1 mg/L, AST 146 IU/L, and CK 3234 IU/L. After 24 hours, only some parameters remained elevated: CRP was 14.5 mg/L, AST 197 IU/L, and CK 2479 IU/L. After 7 days, all the parameters were again within the reference range. The parameters were similar to those in a healthy person enduring a similar race.

Conclusions

Although our patient showed that it was possible for a person with type 1 diabetes to participate in such a strenuous and long lasting event, we would not go so far as to conclude that ultra-endurance events and extreme physiological conditions are generally safe for people suffering from diabetes. Also, there is a lack of data about long-term consequences of such participation. There are only few reports on diabetes type 1 patients participating in endurance events. Most report participation in shorter races such as marathons (13) and emphasize dangers of hypoglycemia (47).

Despite dangers and obstacles, the potential benefit for a person with type 1 diabetes involved in endurance sports could be considerable. Athletes maintain a healthy lifestyle, closely monitor their blood glucose status, and serve as motivation for other people living with diabetes to involve in regular moderate exercise.

References

1. Cauza E, Hanusch-Enserer U, Strasser B, Ludvik B, Kostner K, Dunky A, et al. Continuous glucose monitoring in diabetic long distance runners. Int J Sports Med. 2005;26:774–80. doi: 10.1055/s-2004-830561. [PubMed] [Cross Ref]
2. Grimm JJ, Muchnick S. Type I diabetes and marathon running. Diabetes Care. 1993;16:1624. [PubMed]
3. Hartvig Jensen T, Darre E, Holmich P, Jahnsen F. Insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus and marathon running. Br J Sports Med. 1987;21:51–2. doi: 10.1136/bjsm.21.1.51-a. [PMC free article] [PubMed] [Cross Ref]
4. Murillo S, Brugnara L, Novials A. One year follow-up in a group of half-marathon runners with type-1 diabetes treated with insulin analogues. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2010;50:506–10. [PubMed]
5. Graveling AJ, Frier BM. Risks of marathon running and hypoglycaemia in Type 1 diabetes. Diabet Med. 2010;27:585–8. doi: 10.1111/j.1464-5491.2010.02969.x. [PubMed] [Cross Ref]
6. Devadoss M, Kennedy L, Herbold N. Endurance athletes and type 1 diabetes. Diabetes Educ. 2011;37:193–207. doi: 10.1177/0145721710395782. [PubMed] [Cross Ref]
7. Boehncke S, Poettgen K, Maser-Gluth C, Reusch J, Boehncke WH, Badenhoop K. Endurance capabilities of triathlon competitors with type 1 diabetes mellitus. Dtsch Med Wochenschr. 2009;134:677–82. doi: 10.1055/s-0029-1208104. [PubMed] [Cross Ref]

Articles from Croatian Medical Journal are provided here courtesy of Medicinska Naklada

Feet types and how to choose running shoes

By

To figure out what type of running shoes you should buy, you first need to know that kind of feet you have. A knowledgeable salesperson at a running store can help you find the right running shoefor your foot type, but you can also figure out what type of foot you have on your own. One way is to just look at your foot. A more accurate method is to examine your footprint by either running in the sand or on paper with wet feet.

There are three different types of feet:

Flat Feet

If you’re looking at your foot, you’ll know you have flat feet if you don’t see any arch. The bottom of your foot, from your toes to your heel, is completely flat. If you do the footprint test, your print will look like a foot-shaped blob. You won’t see an inward curve from your big toe to your heel.

Problem? If you’re flat-footed, you’re most likely an overpronator, which means that your feet roll inward when you run.

What to Buy: You will probably need a running shoe that maintains your stability. Look for the words “motion control” and “stability” on the box of running shoes you are considering. In addition to motion-control shoes, some flat-footed runners also need to wear orthotics (custom-made shoe inserts that correct foot issues).

High-arched Feet

  • You should be able to easily determine if you have high arches — you’ll notice a high and definite arch on your foot. If you do the footprint test, your print will curve inward, making the middle part of your foot look very skinny. When you push your hand against the bottom of your foot, your arch will stay rigid.Problem? If you have high arches, you probably supinate or underpronate, which means your feet roll outwards as you run. It’s very important that runners with high arches periodically re-measure their feet because running will cause their arches to gradually fall, making their feet longer.

    What to Buy: You need to look for flexible running shoes with a soft midsole that absorbs shock. When buying running shoes, look for options with the words “flexible” or “cushioned” included in their descriptions.

    Neutral or Normal Feet

  • If you’ve examined your foot or your footprint and it doesn’t look flat-footed or high-arched, you most likely have a neutral or normal foot. Your footprint will have a noticeable curve inward, but not by more than 3/4 of an inch.
  • Problem? As long as you pick a running shoe that doesn’t counteract your foot type, you shouldn’t encounter any problems. This is the most common type of foot, and it’s also the least susceptible to injury provided it’s outfitted with proper footwear.What to Buy: If you have normal feet, you can choose from a wide variety of running shoes, including ones made for neutral runners or those with slightly flat-footed or high-arched feet. Don’t pick running shoes that have a lot of stability or motion control.