On your marks. Get set. Bear crawl. The movement of the future is here. And it looks a lot like the movement of the distant past.
What benefits would you get from moving on all fours? How would our society adapt to accommodate this new movement? And how could it change human evolution forever?
It’s been at least six million years since humans started walking upright. Exactly when this happened and why is still up for debate. But bipedalism, or moving with two rear limbs, could a critical reason humans evolved into the planet’s most dominant species.
When the African climate began to change, your ancestors had to adapt to living in the grasslands. And that’s when they may have started to stand upright. It was easier to see over the tall grass.
This could be how natural selection led you to walk around with that Starbucks cup in your hand. Having our hands free to craft and use tools might have been a key to creating early civilizations. But what if we devolved a little?
If you want to start preparing for a world full of quadrupedal movement, you might find some benefits. For starters, you’d be improving your balance and range of activity. It would help you develop cat-like reflexes. You could move between positions like crouching and standing with remarkable agility.
If you’re feeling sore already, good. This form of movement would be a full-body workout. You’d be developing more muscular shoulders and triceps. So get ready to pump up your diet.
Many martial artists and parkour athletes are already introducing this into their lives. Tokyo’s “monkey man,” Kenichi Ito, can run like a horse. This is called a transverse gallop.
Ito set the world record for the fastest 100 m (328 ft) on all fours at 15.71 seconds. Usain Bolt holds the bipedal record at 9.58 seconds. But if everyone started running on all fours, it would be difficult for society to adjust. You’d no longer be able to use your hands to carry things with ease.
No more coffee on the go. No more cellphones or umbrellas. Going to the grocery store would take several trips. Fashion would change significantly. Purses and high heels would be unusable. Whole new industries would emerge to come up with intelligent solutions to this lifestyle.
And watch your head because anything higher than 1 m (3.3 ft) would be difficult to see. Head trauma could become commonplace. You would want to invest in a good helmet. Get ready to wash your hands more than you do during the pandemic. Being so close to the ground means touching the soil and potential pathogens. You’d be getting sick more often.
Reorienting your body would also lead to gastrointestinal issues. At least until our bodies began to adapt. Eventually, your four-legged descendants would look more and more like your ancestors.
Scientists know from fossils that as humans began to walk upright, many changes occurred to our bodies. The shape of our pelvis changed from tall and flat to shorter and more bowl-like. Our spines curved into an S-shape to bring our body weight over the hips and cushion the brain while walking.
So what if you went back to the ways of your ancestors? At first, this would lead to a lot of aches and pains. You would have wrist, shoulder and hip injuries. Your body just isn’t prepared for life on all fours.
On the bright side, you could bid farewell to back pain. Currently, this is the largest contributor to disability in the world. Most of this is due to occupational injuries or inactivity. But our upright walking is also to blame.
We transitioned from four to two legs at a fast rate. And that didn’t allow our musculoskeletal system to adapt.
So once you figured out the smoothest, most efficient way to move on all fours, you could be on your way to a body that is able to change directions quickly and react more instinctively. Eventually, your four-legged descendants would adapt to look more and more like your ancestors.
- “BBC Earth | Home”. 2021. bbcearth.com.
- “Human Quadrupeds, Primate Quadrupedalism, And Uner Tan Syndrome”. Shapiro, Liza J., Whitney G. Cole, Jesse W. Young, David A. Raichlen, Scott R. Robinson, and Karen E. Adolph. 2014. Plos ONE 9 (7): e101758. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0101758.
- “Humans walking on all fours is not backward evolution”. sciencedaily.com.
- “Mutations may make humans walk on all fours”. 2008. Nature.
- “Guinness World Records: Fastest 100m running on all fours record broken by Tokyo’s ‘monkey man’”. 2015. The Independent.