A comprehensive view of fitness and health based on a new interpretation of human evolution.
The trend in recent years has been for fitness programs to become increasingly synoptic, expanding from a surgically specific correction of a particular problem to a full lifestyle. Authors Bob Zhang and Dongxun Zhang (Intended Evolution, 2015) take this development a step further by considering health as a function of a person’s entire evolutionary profile, or “healthspan.” First, they pithily articulate their view of “intended evolution”: humans, they say, can direct their evolutionary progress by changing the way they perceive their environments. As each person is essentially a mind-body composite, they assert, postulation of goals and awareness of purpose heavily influence one’s physiological progress. The rate of change in modern society has been so dizzyingly swift that it’s outpaced our adaptation to it, but this book says that one can direct future adaptation with a highly specialized health plan that considers one’s unique biological and aspirational circumstances. In other words, it posits that the state of one’s environment induces long-term changes, essentially saved as information in intelligently functioning internal systems. Unlike the standard interpretation of evolution, the authors believe that these changes can occur in the short term. They recommend a number of health and fitness exercises, but because each individual program must ultimately be customized, they can only suggest so much. The advice sometimes doesn’t inspire confidence—it’s easy to be dubious, for example, that the shaking and twisting exercises here will lead to considerable weight loss. Zhang and Zhang don’t provide any specific empirical or clinical support for their claims, either, and they’ve already more fully developed their theory of evolution in their previous work. Indeed, the whole book has the feel of an incomplete draft. Even in broad strokes, though, the notion of agency-laden evolution is an engaging one, and the authors are to be commended for transcending the faddish obsession with one-size-fits-all dietary regimens. However, despite the originality of the context they provide, the suggestion that success is partly a function of its anticipatory visualization is hardly new, and its advocacy doesn’t require a radical reconsideration of evolution.
Despite its admirable ambition, this book’s advice lacks specificity, empirical support, and originality.