Hunter-gatherers vs./compared to modern physically fit & outdoors peoples?

Oct 2017
America ??
Can’t decide whether this post would fit better in the military or environmental history section, so please share your opinion so I can get this thread moved asap.

This question is especially relevant to me as a biologist & nature lover & enthusiast. Self-described noble savage I suppose. Any others out there like me?

I suppose we’re comparing these broad groups arranged from generally fittest to least, in aspects like fitness, strength, hardiness, resistance to infections, parasites diseases, sophistication, intimacy with nature, intimacy with animals, survival ability, combat ability, wilderness mobility & flexibility, dependence on technology, ability to survive without technology, sociality, & even morality, intelligence & perception, among others. Just being outdoors itself requires minimal physical fitness & outdoors & survival knowledge by default doesn’t it?:

-Wild hunter-gatherers, prehistoric as well as historic. Over 99% of human history in total was under this lifestyle category. Can fishing be considered hunting-gathering?

-Civilized laborers, present & historical. Would this include farmers & peasants, over 90% of human population historically? I suppose most slaves, among the worst products of civilization, would be under this category as well?

-Civilized outdoors people like rangers, loggers, & hermits, present & historical.

-Soldiers, especially those who spend much time outdoors, present & historical. Especially those who have familiarity with outdoors survival knowledge & skills like special forces & rangers? (Most soldiers don’t have wilderness training & intimacy).

-Fitness enthusiasts like trainers, body-builders & martial artists, mostly civilised I assume, modern & historical.

It’s interesting to compare wild hunter-gatherers, especially those who’ve completely grown up in nature & have no concept whatsoever of civilisation or even agriculture, to modern soldiers (as well as historical perhaps to add comparison), especially to those like special forces who are noted for having among the best fitness & survival knowledge & skills of civilised or even modern humans (as in era, not anatomically!).

Civilized people’s very first problem is being acclimatized & used to nature itself, health wise as well as psychologically, that goes down to the cellular level I suppose. Regarding technology, even before thinking of outdoor tools, most modern civilized people are completely reliant on footwear itself, among the very first importances in nature & survival is mobility, which just ranks above the basic physiological needs which usually require anyway. We would greatly struggle without them when plopped in nature, even special forces for all their calloused hands totally rely on them. Do you know how special forces would fare if plopped in nature without shoes or even completely naked?
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Ad Honorem
Oct 2012
I'd vote ancient hunter-gatherers being the most fit overall. Their survival quite literally depended on it. I doubt most modern people in first world nations, even among groups that are fairly athletic, could attempt this without collapsing from exhaustion before their prey:



Forum Staff
Oct 2011
Italy, Lago Maggiore
I don't see my own category: trekkers [and I tend to consider myself an extreme trekker since I prefer challenging climate conditions].

The first difference which comes to my mind is equipment. I've got no troubles to survive in a forest, but if I can reduce risks of wounds, infections, intestinal problems, banal colds, fever ... why shouldn't I wear suitable impermeable and anti-wind cloths walking through the Norwegian forests in winter? And with my beloved trekking boots ... Furthermore, why to waste time to make a fire with prehistorical methods [I'm able to] when you can do it with a modern, simple and not that technological lighter?

If we consider the body, it all depends on training and on the kind of training. A hunter-gatherer actually trained himself all the days, simply hunting, gathering, building, transporting ... if in the Paleolithic there was a possibility to meet a fat guy, well I can think only to shamans [they probably didn't hunt or fight for the tribe, but I wouldn't be that sure ...].

So, a trekker like me, who lifts weights in the gym, is not worse than a prehistorical hunter-gatherer. Like many other modern persons.

Anyway, as said, a part the condition of the body, the equipment gives us a remarkable advantage. And we are used to enjoy it. So without my equipment I would have some troubles. I would survive anyway, but in a less comfortable way ...


Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
Skeletons remains of hunters and early farmers clearly establish that hunters were very healthy
while early farmers suffered from malnutrition , intensive wear of their bones from overwork , sign of diseases , parasites and anemia

while this sound good for the hunters , their life was pretty simple , be fit or be dead
their survival followed a harsh yearly cycle , during the good times life was easy , during the hard times they starved
at the extreme , they ate their grand-parents first , then the babies to sustain the young and capable
since they were always on the move , hygiene was less of an issue , food shortage of a few months left little traces on their bones

farmers with their food stores could sustain a much larger population with less seasonal variations
most would sustain themselves on a lower average of calories ,
animals , wastes and overcrowding in permanent settlements created a health hazard

ultimately Farmers with their larger population won supremacy
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Ad Honorem
Oct 2016
Overall I would go H&G , if you look at articles written about health impact of agriculture, it is telling . Also a lot of diseases ony developed after we started interacting with animals differently, the nasty plague ones seem to be animal disease mutations.

Then there is the whole physical structure thing . A few times early Euros in Australia commented on the Aboriginals fine physique and even the dignity of and they way they carried themselves . One even ventured to suggest it was becasue they never slaved over a plough or a desk, for hours on end .

Harari in " Sapiens " goes into deeper deatail about this .

They had a greater range of food than we do too .... I should say , they ate a greater range of food . They where also more immune from food supply shortages, etc etc .

A lot of this is in 'Sapiens ' .