Although humans sit atop the food chain pyramid, it’s not due to their physical prowess alone. Without tools, humans would likely struggle to outmuscle creatures of similar weight. Even chimpanzees, animals strikingly similar to humans, are generally capable of exerting roughly twice as much force when adjusted for body weight. This fundamental difference, compared to other primates, persists despite efforts through exercise.

Human muscles have degenerated due to the brain’s energy-consuming growth, resulting in other animals being much stronger with similar muscle mass.

Cats can sleep for hours on end and appear lazy, yet if motivated, Usain Bolt would have a tough time outrunning them.

But what about humans? If humans don’t exercise, their muscle mass decreases. Why is it that humans alone must painfully acquire muscles capable of significant strength?

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Why Do Humans Need to Exercise?

Comparing humans to other animals highlights how artificial exercise can be. While animals move their bodies for survival, humans engage in the seemingly purposeless repetition of lifting heavy weights solely to enhance muscle strength. How do animals acquire superior physical and exercise abilities?

Research suggests that the mechanism by which humans and animals prepare their muscles for action differs. Unlike animals, exercise is the sole trigger for muscle growth in humans. The principle behind human muscle growth involves exercising beyond our body’s limits, causing muscle damage. As our bodies repair this damage, they also hypertrophy the muscles to prepare for greater strength in subsequent exercises.

However, the enlargement of animal muscles is largely influenced by environmental and seasonal factors. Animals possess a mechanism to automatically adjust muscle mass in anticipation of environmental changes such as food scarcity due to changing seasons. Humans lack this mechanism, requiring effort to gain muscle.

But why do humans uniquely lack this mechanism?

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What Our Ancestors Had to Give Up

In many aspects, humans are among the most unique animals, primarily due to their adaptability. While other powerful animals may struggle to survive outside their preferred climates, humans thrive in diverse environments.

However, the lives of our ancestors who conquered the Earth through adaptation were far from easy. Exposed to ever-changing environments, they couldn’t predict the future. They might have been enjoying bananas in tropical regions one day and waking up in tundra regions the next. Such unpredictable changes forced humans to constantly adjust their muscle mass.

They needed muscles for hunting or fleeing from predators, yet during bad weather or heavy rain, they had to reduce muscle mass because muscles are metabolically expensive, consuming about 20% of total calories despite representing only around 40% of body weight on average. Carrying such an expensive system would have been disadvantageous for survival.

Consequently, human muscles evolved into a form where they deteriorate when not in use and strengthen with use. Instead of momentary bursts of strength, humans gained remarkable endurance. In long-distance running, except for birds, no animal can match humans.

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Exercise and building muscle are essential for maintaining overall health and well-being. Regular physical activity strengthens muscles, bones, and joints, reducing the risk of injury and improving mobility. Additionally, building muscle boosts metabolism, aiding in weight management and promoting better body composition. Moreover, exercise enhances cardiovascular health, reduces the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, and contributes to mental well-being by reducing stress and anxiety.