Sunday, April 26, 2015

Fast Male Distance Runners Get All The Girls?

Hmmm, who's the fastest and strongest? Picture by richseow from Flickr
Here's what a new study showed, men who are good at long distance running may have more desirable sex genes.

Some background into this. Prior to farming, hunting may be an important way for males to demonstrate resourcefulness. And it has been well documented that females place high priority on male ability to acquire resources especially in the caveman/ hunter-gatherer era.

You may laugh at this but this is what researchers at University of Cambridge aimed to investigate when they studied runners (439 male, 103 female) racing a half marathon race in Nottingham, England.

They recorded each runner's finish time while also measuring the length of each person's index and ring fingers.

Why you may ask? Well, don't laugh, previous research has shown that having a long ring finger compared to the index finger is a sign of being exposed to more prenatal testosterone. This is an indicator for better sex drive and higher sperm count in men as adults.

What's more surprising was that 10 percent of the male runners studied with the longest ring fingers (compared to index) averaged 24:33 minutes faster in the half marathon than those with a smaller digit ratio.

There was a similar (albeit smaller) correlation in the female runners. Those with the highest finger ratio ran 12 minutes faster!

The researchers suggested that although testosterone exposure in the womb is just a small part of making a runner faster. Other genetics and training (of course) are also important. They however, suggested that their findings do fall in line with evolutionary advantages for men when it comes to procreating.

These suggests that women in our caveman/ hunter-gatherer past were able to observe running as a signal for a good breeding partner.


Longman D, Wells JCK et al (2015). Can Persistence Hunting Signal Male Quality? A Test Considering Digit Ratio In Endurance Athletes. PLOS One. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0121560.

Read the article here.

How do I measure up?

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