Wide Hips Are Just As Efficient For Running

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Women elite runners from the 2014 Boston Marathon. (JD/Flickr)
Women elite runners from the 2014 Boston Marathon. (JD/Flickr)

On this Marathon Monday, we bring good news for all you wide-hipped runners.

Anthropologists have long thought women's wide hips evolved as a result of needing a pelvis wide enough to birth a baby, but narrow enough to walk upright, on two feet.

And as a result of that trade-off, for a long time, we believed that a woman's wider hips were less efficient for walking and running than a man's typically narrower ones.

But that's actually not the case, according to a recent study by researchers at Boston University, Harvard University and Hunter College — they say wider hips don't limit women from walking and running as efficiently as men.

That leaves the question, what then is shaping women's hips?


Carey Goldberg, co-host of WBUR's CommonHealth blog. She tweets @CommonHealth.

Anna Warrener, post-doctoral fellow in the department of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University.


CommonHealth: Wide Hips? Take Heart: Study Finds You Can Run Just As Efficiently

  • For more than 50 years, anthropologists thought that the human pelvis was shaped by an evolutionary tug-of-war between the competing demands of bipedalism and childbirth. Now, a team of scientists that includes Kristi Lewton, an assistant professor in the department of anatomy and neurobiology at Boston University School of Medicine, and colleagues at Harvard University and Hunter College has shown that this so-called “obstetric dilemma” might not be a dilemma at all.

PLOS One: A Wider Pelvis Does Not Increase Locomotor Cost in Humans, With Implications For The Evolution Of Childbirth

  • The results show that pelvic width does not predict hip abductor mechanics or locomotor cost in either women or men, and that women and men are equally efficient at both walking and running.

This segment aired on April 22, 2015.


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