Humans evolved mainly to be active during daytime and to rest and sleep when it’s dark ‘the duration of those ‘days’ and ‘nights’ being fixed in ecuatorial Africa long ago. The natural thing for us, humans of the 21st century, would be to go to bed around sunset, and get up when the sun rises.
However, not all humans can do that, all the time. Someone has to watch museums, factories and streets at night. A&E needs to be staffed. Someone has to work in the wee hours to bake the bread you eat for breakfast. People live in high latitudes, where nights are very short in the summer and very long in the winter. People travel and have a hard time adapting their sleep cycle to a new time zone.
What do we do? We have night shifts, and pass laws that limit the level of noise in cities so that people can rest at home. We have shutters, blinds, soundproofing, sleep masks, earplugs and sleeping tablets to create an artificial night when we want to rest, or on a plane. We use electricity to light up our houses, roads and offices at times of night when our ancestors would curl into fetal position inside their caves. We consume caffeine to get ready for work when it’s necessary. None of that is quite natural, nor instinctive. These changes seemed outrageous in the beginning, then people got used to them.
Wait. Do you mean to say that we should manipulate our circadian cycles at will? That we should ignore the Sun and the Moon?
Not at all. To go with the cycles of the Spheres is a great thing, and I do that as often as I can. Whenever work, social life and the environment permits, we should get as close as this natural ideal as possible. For all the other cases, which are a lot, the fact that we can tweak those natural cycles is an amazing feat, and we should embrace the opportunities that allows us.
I think it is disgusting.
Good for you. Follow the stars. I’m still caffeinated enough to work for another couple of hours, and then there’s that gig I want to go to tonight?
Early humans, like most other primates, survived by staying physically active and alert during their waking hours. Every single one of your ancestors, from the dawn of mankind to this day, male and female, was fast and strong enough to reach adulthood, breed and rear their offspring. They could not afford the luxury not to hunt, not to run, not to kill, not to be vigilant, not to flee. The natural thing for us, humans of the 21st century, would be to keep moving, to burn calories, to never stay still for more than a little while.
However, not all humans can do that, all the time. Our work is increasingly intellectual in nature. We sit quiet at school, before our desk, at the counter or behind the wheel for a sizeable chunk of our lives. We don’t have incentives to stay fit because we can buy what we need to survive instead of running after it, stealing it from others, or building it ourselves. We live much longer. We break our bones, become ill, look after needy babies, keep ourselves busy and, above all, feel tremendously lazy most of the time.
None of that is quite natural, nor instinctive ‘these changes seemed outrageous in the beginning, then people got used to’them
What do we do? We have treadmills, stationary bicycles, dumbbells, fitness apps, insurance discounts and physiotherapists. We go to gyms, join sports clubs, swim indoors, enter popular races, encourage our children to be physically active, force rest breaks at work, watch our calorie intake. Entire branches of science and of the industry are devoted to keeping us moving and alive even at very old ages. Some people need fat-removal surgery, or drugs to widen their blood vessels or to survive type 2 diabetes. None of that is quite natural, nor instinctive. These changes seemed outrageous in the beginning, then people got used to them.
Wait. Why do you hate exercising naturally, in the open? Aren’t we supposed to simply run a lot, lift stuff, wrestle with each other, swim in the ocean, not be seated? How can you defend using that stupid cross-trainer under halogen light, for thirty minutes, four times a week?