Ancestral Health Symposium 2014 Review
I’m back from the wild, wooly West and looking forward to telling you all about it. Actually, both Keith and I had speaking spots this year and as soon as his talk is available online, I’ll share it via the blog.
But let’s back up a moment: what’s the Ancestral Health Symposium? Is AHS some sort of caveman conference?
Not exactly; rather it’s a conference that gathers researchers, clinicians, and laypersons who are interested at human health through the lens of the human ecological niche.
So you know how they make the animal landscapes in a zoo to be a close to the environment that the species evolved in throughout its genetic development? Yeah, it wasn’t always that way and zookeepers eventually figured out that they lived longer and stronger when they environment was no longer mismatched.
Human beings are no different and we’ve largely built environments that divorce us from the environmental stimuli that help to facilitate health and wellness. This doesn’t mean that we need to act like cavemen or attempt to find the “perfect” human diet (that’s a blog post for another time); just know that there are broad categories of stimuli that we need to check in and interact with on a regular basis to help ensure the right biological cues for health.
So having said that, let me give you a bit of the background of the AHS. Keith and I spoke back in 2011 at the first ever symposium, where we talked about what we do at Efficient Exercise in the context of the healthcare system in general. We differentiated how exercise is akin to a swim coach, which rehab & medicine are akin to a lifeguard. Tasking a lifeguard with teaching someone how to swim is outside the scope of what they’re trained to do, just as asking a physician to teach people to thrive is outside the scope of your average physician’s capability. The system is setup for them to be the arbiters of sick care, seeing as many people per day as possible who have something ill about them. If they can slip one or two notes about lifestyle in at the end of a visit, it’s often discarded by the “fix me, doc” patient attitude. This is cultural, deeply engrained.
The rest of the conference was a hodgepodge of people and ideas occupying a “paleo” space on the internet. It was lots of fun but certainly not focused yet; that takes time and more conferences.
After finishing my graduate degree, I had the time and the topic to present at AHS 2014. The symposium had grown in scope and rigor; it wasn’t enough to just be interested in this stuff; you had to present questions and topics with academic rigor. Doing your homework was required, as was questioning your assumptions. This made for higher quality presenting on average than seen in previous years. It was also a lot of fun to talk with everyone so interested in their subject matter.
My talk was titled “Resistance Training, Brain Structure, and Brain Function.” In this, I gave a brief explanation of resistance training’s historical place in the exercise science literature, discussed the bleeding edge of research with resistance training pertaining to brain structure and function, before wrapping it up with how this is evolutionarily relevant, and where the research can go from where it currently is, before making suggestions based on the literature. This is not “Skyler’s biased interpretation of the literature,” but the protocol that most frequently correlated with these changes in the literature. I can’t turn an is into an ought; it is what it is no matter what others would like it to be.
I hope you find the talk enjoyable.
Skyler Tanner is an Efficient Exercise Master Trainer and holds his MS in Exercise Science. He enjoys teaching others about the power of proper exercise and how it positively affects functional mobility and the biomarkers of aging.