A New Study Says Being Pregnant is Just as Difficult as Competing in An Endurance Sport

Something that all moms know has now been borne out by science. A new study reveals that pregnant and breastfeeding women have the same raised metabolic rate as endurance athletes in sports like long-distance running and cycling.

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Researches found that pregnancy is just as hard as extreme sports. This should come as no surprise to anyone who’s ever been pregnant.

The amount of energy depleted by extreme sports is similar to pregnancy.

Pregnant Women Extreme Sport

The study published in the journal, Science Advances found that the body, when under extreme duress, like running a marathon or carrying a baby in your body, finds ways to store energy.

“We were able to show that in the face of running a marathon a day, your body finds a way to save calories,” Herman Pontzer, a coauthor of the paper and evolutionary anthropologist at Duke University explained to Quartz.

The findings show that athletes who regularly push their bodies to the limit (like running a marathon a day for a month) will have a higher than normal resting metabolic rate throughout that time, but it won’t be as high as if they spent a day running a marathon. In other words: the body finds ways to adjust to abnormal, extended exertion versus one off extreme effort.

Just like extreme sports, a full-term pregnancy pushes the body to the max.

Pregnancy is just like extreme sports

“You can do really intense amounts of work for a day or so,” Pontzer explained to CNN. “But if you have to last a week or so, you have to maintain less intensity.” 

The study also found that pregnant and/or breastfeeding women burn double the number of calories than they would normally.

Understanding that pregnancy was such a huge strain on the body was instrumental in the researcher’s findings.

Quartz on Pontzer’s findings:

“This realization was an exciting moment for Pontzer and his team. Among all apes, humans have one of the most energy-taxing pregnancies due to a combination of the length of gestation and the size of our babies. We’re also the best endurance athletes, as measured by our distance running capabilities. Our species’ metabolic cap could be the reason for both, he explained.”

Interesting theories here. Humans evolved to carry large babies and thus evolved to be able to perform heavy endurance activities like long-distance races.

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