Prof. Vybarr Cregan-Reid

Vybarr Cregan-Reid is a critically-acclaimed author, academic, speaker and broadcaster who has written widely on the subjects of literature, health, nature and the environment. He has published several books, and as well as numerous appearances on radio throughout the world, he has also made series with the BBC, appeared on the BBC TV, ITV and Sky, and his work has been translated into over a dozen languages. He teaches at the University of Kent in the School of English and at their Medical School.

His most recent book, Primate Change: How the World We Made is Remaking Us, looks at how modern life is changing our bodies: everything from our fingertips to our eyesight; the size of our feet to the shape of our faces. 



Primate Change: How the world We Made is Remaking Us


Primate Change beautifully unscrambles the complex architecture of our modern human bodies, built over millions of years but changed by what we have done to the places we live, the places we have made.

‘A work of remarkable scope’ – The Guardian
Best science books of 2018 – The FT

Primate Change has been adapted into two radio series for the BBC WORLD SERVICE. Series 2 aired, 26th Feb, 2020.

More info here 

…and a ted talk


 Vybarr delivered a TEDx talk in Royal Tunbridge Wells on 1st February 2020 at the Assembly Hall Theatre to an audience of about a thousand. It is available ➡️, and on YouTube. The talk itself was about the subtle ways our habits and ways of life have of changing our facial appearance. Modern life is not just affecting things like our eyesight, but is driving quite substantial structural changes in our skull. This also means that our voices resonate differently, too. Anyway, enjoy!  


Footnotes: how running makes us human

a wide-ranging study of what running and movement mean to the human body. A blend of science, nature-writing, literary criticism and memoir, Footnotes seeks to understand why running is not just a sport, but something much biggerLiberating and inspiring, this book reminds us why feeling the earth beneath our feet is a necessary and healing part of our lives.

Primate Change – audio

narrated by the author and available through Audible.

Footnotes – audio

beautifully narrated by the actor Daniel Weyman, and available through Audible.

Discovering Gilgamesh

traces the impact that the rediscovery of the ancient Epic  had on nineteenth century literature, art, science.



‘In a work of remarkable scope, [Primate Change] ranges across ancient history, science and literature to tell the story of human evolution and adaptation to our changing world. He writes with enthusiasm for the wonders of our biology’- Guardian


‘Nature and nurture commingle to fascinating effect in this study of how the environment humans have so thoroughly altered is altering us physiologically’



‘ [Primate Change is a]  thought-provoking history of the human body….The message may be stark, but this book proposes simple remedies: walk more, get a dog and let your kids play outdoors.’

Must Reads… The Mail


Science Book of the Year 2018 – The FT


Entertaining and thought provoking’ – Literary Review


‘an excellent evaluation of our bodily shortcomings’ Financial Times


‘[Footnotes is] a wonderfully subtle and ambitious book’ – Guardian


‘[Footnotes] invites comparison to novelist Haruki Murakami’ Washington Post on Sunday


‘Accessible and thought-provoking’ –  Washington Post


Christmas Science Choice 2018 – The Mail


Footnotes is a blazing achievement. It burns with restless energy as Cregan-Reid, alive, alert, wholly and gloriously present, sets out his manifesto, encapsulated in his subtitle, that running makes us human. – Caught by the River


‘Delightful…an entertaining combination of personal narrative and rich literary episodes.’ TLS 


‘A brilliant, broad-ranging and beautiful book.’

(Rob Cowen – author of Common Ground)


‘‘a book in which the striding energy of the prose matches its subject.

(Iain Sinclair)

Radio & TV

ITV – ‘Tonight’ 

The Pain in Your Back – 21st April, 2022 

Working from home has become essential for many of us Brits and our homes have become our offices. As we have begun to live increasingly more sedentary lives, back pain is something that many millions of people in the UK are now suffering from. Reporter Joe Crowley has been finding out the best ways to ease the ache.

Joe meets Professor Vybarr Cregan Reid an author who has written all about environments and how they are changing our bodies

Inside the Factory

Series 6, Ep. 05 Chairs, Jan 2022

This episode visits the Ercol factory in Buckinghamshire, an area associated with furniture making since the 19th century. 

In the sciencey bit, Cherry Healey investigates how sitting too much could be very bad for our health, and talks to Vybarr about how a life spent doing sedentary work could reshape her body. 

BBC World Service

Changing World, Changing Bodies – Series 1 & 2 2019/2020 

is a major series that looks at how humans are changing in different parts of the world. With expertise gathered from 5 continents, the series asked why so many of us have flat feet and what that means for our health. Why was back pain unheard of a couple of centuries ago, but is now the principal cause of global disability. And, how and why is modern life changing our facial appearance?

The 2nd series focusses on what modern life is doing to our height, sleep and longevity. The series was pick of the day in The Times, and pick of the week by Gillian Reynolds in The Sunday Times, as well as The Observer, The Mail and the Radio Times. The BBC also commissioned a short film about the series. 

ITV – ‘Tonight’

Back Pain: Britain’s Unseen Crisis?

Nearly 80% of people have experienced lower back pain, an exclusive poll for the Tonight programme reveals today. It’s one of the most pressing health issues facing our nation – costing billions every yea. 40% of people who responded to our poll had taken time off work because of back pain. The programme looked at the histories and causes of back pain.

BBC World Service

Over to You

is a Saturday-morning audience-feedback which Vybarr was invited onto to discuss the making of ‘Changing Worlds, Changing Bodies’ with presenter Rajan Datar and some questions from a few interested listeners.

BBC 5Live

Afternoon Edition

Vybarr was guest editor and lead interviewee on BBC 5Live’s ‘Afternoon Edition’ which with special guests and audience phone-ins discussed what modern life is doing to our bodies. Focussing in particular on how indoor living is changing, among other things, our eyesight,Professor Chris Hammond from King’s College Hospital a specialist in short-sightedness, a disease driven strongly by the environment in which one lives and works, also joined the discussion.

BBC Radio 3

Free Thinking: the Arts of Running

An in-depth discussion hosted by Shahidha Bari and Laurence Scott exploring  contemporary running as solitary inspiration and communal activity. Conversation ranges from feeling empowered on city streets to teaming up with the wind to the horrid history of the treadmill and explore whether Running deserves better representation in the arts.

BBC Radio 4

Open Book

This written-for-radio essay explores why it is that so many novelists are committed runners, yet this passion rarely finds its ways onto the pages of fiction. Is it part of something much bigger. 


The Guardian

For the Sake of our health, we need to kick the indoor habit

As a species we need to get out more. Humans now spend so much time indoors that many of us are cultivating a variety of serious health complaints, and for some they could be fatal. It is not so much that outdoor time is inherently good; more that our bodies are built to anticipate it and the way we live now is confusing to our systems. Nearly two decades ago a study published in Nature magazine concluded that the average American spent 93% of their time indoors. And that was before tablets and smartphones… from The Guardian

Sunday Times

Fresh-air farming: how one man halved his asthma medication

For years, I believed I wasn’t green-fingered. In one of my first rentals in Edinburgh, there was a single spider plant. From the moment my mates and I moved in, its demise began. We watered it as if we were trying to rouse a beached whale and, a month later, it was dead. I henceforth characterised myself as “bad with plants”, as certainly as if asserting I was right-handed… Sunday Times 

Daily Beast 

The Anthropocene Era is Killing Us

Our appearance and the way we move, rest, sleep, think, eat, gather and communicate have all changed dramatically since Homo sapiens first walked the planet probably well over 300,000 years ago… here.

IFL Science  

Running Makes You Smarter, Here’s How

As far back as the Greeks and Romans, humans have documented the belief that there is a strong link between exercise and intelligence. But in the last two decades, neuroscience has begun to catch up with Thales and Juvenal’s idea that a sound mind flourishes in a healthy body. While the studies unite in telling us that running will makes us smarter, it is only partly true. The process is more complicated and reveals more about the wonderful complexities of both the human body and its evolution. Although the science might be helping us to understand how the mechanisms work, an important question remains: why does running make us smarter?

The Mail

Are you fed up with sweating? it’s the reason we still exist

Seeing someone wiping their brow is a fairly common sight in summer, but it reveals a simple and fascinating truth about our species. Without sweat, we would not still be here – nor would we have climbed our way to the top of evolutionary pile. Many animals perspire, but no others use it as such an efficient and refined cooling technology. 

The Guardian

Running: the top five reasons to keep going

As those New Year’s resolutions begin to tarnish, we offer beginners five great, and sometimes unexpected reasons to stay on the road – including the welcome news that running makes you smarter

Seeing someone wiping their brow is a fairly common sight in summer, but it reveals a simple and fascinating truth about our species. Without sweat, we would not still be here – nor would we have climbed our way to the top of evolutionary pile. Many animals perspire, but no others use it as such an efficient and refined cooling technology. 

The Guardian

Why Exercise Alone Won’t Save us

This is a Long Read written for the Guardian and was their first article of 2019. … This is the time of year when trainers are mined from under beds and gym kits are disinterred from the bottom drawer. Google searches relating to physical fitness peak in January. Many people even trawl the web to find out about “desk exercises” and “workouts on the go” in case they are too busy to use their new gym memberships… from The Guardian

Metro News

Modern life offers children almost everything they need, except daylight

THE debate about the volume of homework that children are being given has been bouncing around the opinion pages of broadsheets and red tops in recent weeks after Gary Lineker tweeted that it was ‘a waste of time‘. As names are called and sides are taken in the debate there are much bigger issues at stake than either side is admitting… from the Metro

The Observer

Allergies: the scourge of modern life

Our ancestors didn’t suffer from hay fever and food allergies were extremely rare even a few decades ago. What is causing the steep rise in their incidence now? To anyone from Generation X or older, it often feels like food allergies are far more common today than in their youth. While they remember them being rare or nonexistent in their school days, their own children will have classmates with allergies or they may have one themselves.

The Telegraph

How to become a happy runner

Inspired by the London Marathon, or preparing for the Great North Run? Consult our expert guide to training, kit and cadence to get – and stay – in your stride.

Thrive Global  

What You Don’t Know — But Really Should — About Sitting All Day

Turns out, even if you exercise daily you can still be classified as sedentary….In recent years sedentary behaviours, and sitting more specifically, have come under increasing scientific scrutiny. The research is stacking up that shows it is significantly associated with several of the major killers. A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2014 found the following:


Before taking up running, sync your body

If the statistics are correct, many millions of new runners have laced up for the first time in the last few days. If you are one of them, then, as I’ve written elsewhere, you are well on your way to being faster, stronger, more resilient, more intelligent and more empathetic than when you awoke on New Year’s Day nursing little more than a hangover and a firm resolution. So, with such great rewards in the pipeline, why do millions of us fail in those first critical weeks? It’s because, for the body, the first month of new training is so booby-trapped that Lara Croft would find the obstacles tricky to negotiate. Read on and you might just make it safely to February, and beyond.

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