The Tsimané people of the Bolivian Amazon have the healthiest hearts in the world, according to a study published in the Lancet. One of the researchers who has been studying their lifestyle has suggested that cycling to work could be one way in which people could gain similar benefits.
The Tsimané don’t cycle, of course – but they are incredibly active. The BBC reports that the men average 17,000 steps a day, the women 16,000 and even the over-60s achieve a step count of over 15,000.
2,000 steps translates to walking about a mile, so they’re covering some ground. "They achieve a remarkable dose of exercise," said Dr Gregory Thomas.
Thomas’s colleague, Michael Gurven, a professor of anthropology at University of California, Santa Barbara, said that it could be that people need to do far more activity than at present. He put the emphasis on making lifestyle changes rather than just taking part in regular exercise.
"I would say we need a more holistic approach to physical exercise rather than just at the weekend,” he said. "Bicycle to work, take the stairs."
Thomas added: "The modern world is keeping us alive, but urbanisation and the specialisation of the labour force could be new risk factors.”
The Tsimané have hardly any hardening of their arteries and heart attacks and strokes are almost unknown.
Their diet is also radically different from the Western one. It is high in unrefined carbohydrates (72 per cent of their calories) with only 14 per cent of calories from sugar and fat.
You may want to draw the line at intestinal worms, however. These are far more common in the Tsimané and it has been suggested that they could be dampening immune reactions and helping to protect their arteries.