Not an Ironman race or marathon, one of the most extreme experiences a person can endure is pregnancy.
A study by Duke University, published in Science Advances recently, analysed what happens to the bodies of athletes participating in the most challenging races in the world. Turns out, carrying a baby to term over nine months is no less than running an ultramarathon.
The study was based on the resting metabolic rate (known as the basal metabolic rate) of certain activities. It was found that the human body cannot endure more than 2.5 times this rate without eventually breaking down or dying, whereby tissue and muscle begin to break down and the digestive system is compromised.
Study co-author and evolutionary anthropology professor Herman Pontzer said, “Every mother who has gone through a pregnancy has experienced that effort themselves. Pregnancy is the longest duration, highest energy expenditure thing that humans can do. Mothers probably aren’t surprised by this.”
As per the researchers, mothers would literally not be able to continue being pregnant after nine months because of the strain it puts on the body. The limits are probably why babies can be carried only for a certain time frame and up to a certain body size.
Marathons, on the other hand, can raise your basal metabolic rate to much higher than 2.5 but it cannot stay there for long without causing health issues, with the body calling for rest. Pregnant moms do not get rest; they perform all through the period until the baby is born.
Moms on social media did not seem surprised. Here’s how netizens reacted:
35 weeks pregnant is basically constantly releasing gas, moving at the pace of a tortoise, mainlining chocolate and lying beached on the couch moaning while an alien beats you up from the inside. Pregnancy is not beautiful. It is a goddamn endurance.
— Jess Lilley 💾 (@lilleyjuice) June 10, 2019
Nearing the end of my pregnancy, this makes me feel validated (as I catch my breath after coming up the stairs):
“human pregnancy…demands about the same level of energy as long athletic endurance events”
— Sarah Candler (@sarahgcandler) June 8, 2019