Human Clockwork: Survival & Endurance Facts about the Body

The human body at its best should function like a well-calibrated timepiece; in a survival or disaster situationsurvival_human_body your body might be all you’ve got. We took a closer look at just how much the human body is able to take – and some world records that have pushed it to the edge. 

By Alex Coyne, a contributing author of Survival Cache &

Body Temperature

The average temperature for a human body is 37 degrees Celsius (or 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit). Hypothermia is below 35C (95F), and a fever is generally considered to be above 38 degrees Celsius (or 100.4 Fahrenheit).

Damage to the Brain

A lack of oxygen supply to the brain (known as hypoxia) starts becoming potentially damaging to the brain after the first five to ten minutes, according to It almost goes without saying that first-aid measures should be applied as soon as possible to avoid damage.

Heart Rate

The average human heart rate is 60 to 100 beats per minute, though there are individual variations depending on other factors including the person’s fitness level, According to Guinness World Records, the lowest ever recorded heart-rate yet was 27 beats per minute by Martin Brady (11 August 2005),

The Body’s BMI

Need to know if you’re the right weight for your height? That’s called your Body Mass Index.  Everyone’s is different. Here’s an online BMI calculator from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

Bees and Wasps

According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s website (USDA), the human body can tolerate approximately ten stings per pound of their body weight. This, of course, wouldn’t be true if you are allergic to bees. For wasps, 8.6 stings per pound is considered to be “toxic” according to an article from the University of California’s Agriculture and Natural Resources department.

Sleep Deprivation

The world record for sleep deprivation is hard to pinpoint exactly, though there have been several claims over the decades: One was set in 1964 and lasted 264 hours by Randy Gardner – that’s 11 days, though other sources claim the record belongs instead to Toimi Soini (1964 at 276 hours) or Tony Wright (who claimed 264 hours). For the record, Guinness World Records doesn’t accept attempts to beat any kind of sleep deprivation records because it’s downright dangerous.

Blood Pressure

The average blood pressure for a human is 120 over 80, though variations of a little over or under have been reported as a base-line. If it varies too much, you’ve got either high or low blood pressure, which needs to be addressed by a doctor and might include dietary changes and medication to stay healthy.

Blood Loss

According to the American Society of Hematology, about seven to eight percent of the body’s weight consists of blood. Haemorrhaging (bleeding) is medically split up into the following classes (by percentage of blood volume lost):

– Class I: < 15%

– Class II: 15% to 30%

– Class III:  30% to 40%

– Class IV: > 40%


According to several sources we checked into, including How Stuff Works and Business Insider, the consensus amongst experts is that the human body can withstand three to eight weeks without food before it shuts down entirely. (This will depend on how much body weight there is to begin with, as the body will start chipping into reserves as soon as it has run out of external nutrition to feed off of.)

Lung Capacity

Total lung capacity varies from person to person, though the average lung capacity for an adult human is 6, 000 cubic centimeters according to The Physics Factbook; some of the factors which can affect lung capacity includes whether or not someone smokes, and their fitness level. Here’s a handy calculator from MDApp to figure out your own lung capacity.

Have you ever been forced to push your body to its limits? Let us know more about it in the comments – we love hearing from readers!

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