Pregnancy & Human Endurance


For any woman who has experienced pregnancy, she knows the journey from early pregnancy to postpartum is not always easy. Rapid physiological changes put stress on the body in a unique way that can lead to discomfort and exhaustion.

Recent research has confirmed that pregnancy can be associated with endurance sports by comparing pregnant women to endurance athletes participating in a months-long race. Their findings show that pregnant women live on the brink of human endurance while nurturing life in the womb.

For this study, a research team followed endurance athletes who ran the 2015 Race Across the USA, a 3,000-mile race from Huntington Beach, California to Washington, D.C and measured the athletes’ daily caloric burn. In total, the athletes ran six marathons a week for five months. The goal was to define the maximum amount of energy output humans can sustain for a prolonged amount of time before having to resort to breaking down its own tissues to make up for the calorie deficit.

Researchers discovered that humans can only burn calories at 2.5 times their resting metabolic rate when experiencing prolonged strenuous physical activity. If a person were to exceed this energy expenditure limit, the body would start breaking down its own tissue as the energy source. Researchers then compared the energy expenditures of pregnant women who carry to term and determined that endurance athletes experienced only marginally higher metabolic rates than women who sustain the life of a child in their womb.

These findings indicate that the energy needed by endurance athletes to complete advanced physical feats also applies to pregnant women as they sustain and nourish their rapidly growing child. Study co-author and Duke University professor Herman Pontzer elaborated, “Pregnancy is the most energetically expensive activity the human body can maintain for nine months.”

The female body’s ability to sustain life is miraculous!

Knowing the amazing feat pregnancy is, how can you as a pregnancy center continue to support and share the value of life with women in your community? Does your center offer parent education opportunities or a Life Skills Class? Offering parent education courses that showcase healthy pregnancy and infant care information will maximize your support for women as they navigate and experience what could be a very exhausting and overwhelming season of life. Consider offering mentorship opportunities so these young women have a trusted support person to walk with them in their pregnancy journey and show them how they can be the best mothers possible.

Log into your VirTru Training platform to access your "How to Start a Life Skills Class" and "The Importance of Mentorship" courses.