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Am J Hum Biol. 2015 Sep-Oct;27(5):628-37. doi: 10.1002/ajhb.22711. Epub 2015 Mar 30.

Energy expenditure and activity among Hadza hunter-gatherers.

Author information

Department of Anthropology, Hunter College, City University of New York, New York City, New York.
New York Consortium for Evolutionary Primatology, New York City, New York.
School of Anthropology, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona.
Department of Anthropology, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut.
Department of Anthropology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Program in Physical Therapy and Department of Medicine, School of Medicine, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri.
National Museums of Tanzania, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
Department of Anthropology, Cambridge University, Cambridge, United Kingdom.



Studies of total energy expenditure, (TEE; kcal/day) among traditional populations have challenged current models relating habitual physical activity to daily energy requirements. Here, we examine the relationship between physical activity and TEE among traditional Hadza hunter-gatherers living in northern Tanzania.


Hadza adults were studied at two camps, with minimal intervention so as to monitor energy expenditure and activity during normal daily life. We measured daily walking distance and walking speed using wearable GPS units for 41 adults. For a subset of 30 adults, we measured TEE using doubly labeled water, three indices of work load (foraging return rate, maternal status, and number of dependent children), and urinary biomarkers of metabolic activity and stress (8-hydroxydeoxyguanosine, cortisol, and testosterone).


Fat-free mass was the single strongest predictor of TEE among Hadza adults (r(2)  = 0.66, P < 0.001). Hadza men used greater daily walking distances and faster walking speeds compared with that of Hadza women, but neither sex nor any measure of physical activity or work load were correlated with TEE in analyses controlling for fat-free mass. Compared with developed, industrial populations, Hadza adults had similar TEE but elevated levels of metabolic stress as measured by 8-hydroxydeoxyguanosine.


Our results indicate that daily physical activity may not predict TEE within traditional hunter-gatherer populations like the Hadza. Instead, adults with high levels of habitual physical activity may adapt by reducing energy allocation to other physiological activity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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