Maybe it’s nostalgia for the early hominid lifestyle, but recent years gave us the paleo diet and now we’re seeing the rise of “primal fitness.” Primal fitness is outdoor exercise involving jumping, running, and lifting natural objects like logs and stones. Practitioners tout it as a whole movement approach (as opposed to training one muscle or muscle group with one movement) with the added psychological benefits of spending time outdoors.
Similar to an outdoor boot camp, primal fitness may also be a little different from the Cross-Fit style boot camps that spring up in local parks. Indeed, many municipalities now ban the use of public parks for paid fitness instruction. Cross Fit recently has been under fire for overuse injuries and many boot camps have caused complaints by other parks users. Is there a real difference? It probably depends on your trainer.
Of course the real questions are whether primal fitness is safe and effective. Addressing safety first, I’d say that its emphasis on whole-body movements (squats, lunges) is positive. As long as your fitness trainer has appropriate training and skills, knowledge of progressions and contraindicated moves, and good form, you should be as safe participating in primal fitness as you would be in any other exercise. Injuries happen. You could trip while leaping over a log or drop a rock on you foot but there is no inherent reason why primal fitness would be any more dangerous than a sculpt and tone class.
Many studies show that simply spending time outside improves mood. Theories abound whether the brain is responding to vitamin D production or to returning to the natural environment. On a personal level, after Iadopted a dog, I learned that Philly winters aren’t so bad, if you take a mid-day walk to get fresh air and daylight. My mood improved and I didn’t get sick.
Primal fitness is certainly a greener option than heading indoors to the gym. The sun provides the heat and light and you’re not on a perpetual motion machine that draws from carbon-energy grid. Even if you use gym equipment that creates or returns power, using your own energy outside still has less ecological impact.
My take on primal fitness? Getting outside to move is always the right thing to do. Incorporating natural, whole movements is relatively safe. Ultimately if you enjoy exercise, you’re more likely to continue. If your chosen exercise also gives you additional mental and emotional benefits, you’re more likely to continue. Get out and get primal!