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Tuesday, July 7, 2009
A Few Tips for a Successful Chimpercise
A guide to the hot new exercise program developed by field researchers at Gombe National Park.
To make the most of your Chimpercise session, it’s first necessary to have the proper equipment. I think it’s great that the field shoes of choice out here are actually soccer shoes. The small teeth do a great job of gripping the loose gravel during the dry season. The only drawback is that a pair of shoes has an average lifespan of about 1.5 months before they need to be replaced. Other key items to pack include plenty of water and a sugary snack for a late-day energy boost.
You can toss out those boring, monotonous aerobic videos. Chimpercising is anything but repetitive, although I do find that a yoga video for stretching or balance (for the clumsy types) would be a good supplement. Every day I find myself in variable positions, from army crawling through the machaka (thick undergrowth) to climbing moderately steep cliffs. The workout patterns are also variable, such as hiking up, then down, or hiking up and then hiking up some more.
It’s important to know your skill level. Beginners should stick with following large groups of chimpanzees, as they tend to be slower moving. Early Chimpercising sessions also offer a good opportunity to practice identifying individuals, though it can be difficult to follow particular individuals—on the trails we get bumped to the end of the conga line, meaning it’s not always possible to keep track of a particular target individual.
Moderately skilled individuals should select a mother with an infant. They tend to prefer the machaka, but I would like to think the infants can sometimes slow the moms down. For the expert chimpers, following adolescent males makes for an excellent workout because they travel in random bursts and move quickly through the machaka.
Lastly, it is important to have a nice cool-down. At the end of the day, around 5 p.m., the chimpanzees usually begin a slower-paced walk as they search for their last meal of the day and, eventually, a place to nest for the night. I have found that even the females will use more trails during this time. I try to follow the chimpanzees with a slower walk and then, at the end, take a few deep breaths, pat myself on the back and get ready to do it all over again tomorrow.
Gombe Field Diaries
Lincoln Park Zoo is partnering with the Jane Goodall Institute to study and conserve chimpanzees in Tanzania’s Gombe National Park, the site of Jane Goodall’s groundbreaking research. Our Gombe field diaries feature updates as scientists monitor chimpanzee health, study ape behavior and experience life in Gombe.
As director of the Lester E. Fisher Center for the Study and Conservation of Apes, Lonsdorf leads Lincoln Park Zoo efforts in Gombe National Park.
Rachel Santymire, Ph.D.
An endocrinologist in the Davee Center for Epidemiology and Endocrinology, Santymire studies stress and reproduction in Gombe's chipmanzees.
A graduate student in the Committee on Evolutionary Biology at the University of Chicago, Matt is studying how levels of play in Gombe¹s chimpanzees influence stress, development and reproductive success.
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