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Mice will run 10km a night, for no reason at all

By: Hamish Townsend
09 May, 2013

Why do only 10 per cent of humans do the bare minimum required to be healthy?

Researchers from the Griffith University’s School of Rehabilitation Sciences have been studying the genetic effects of physical fitness with a view to developing individualised therapies for people who have incurred damage after a heart attack.

Along the way they found that unlike humans, mice will exercise with little external motivation, reaching distances of ten km a night.


Boris Budiono, A PhD student at Griffith, wanted to find the effects of exercise on an unstressed mouse with a running wheel, plenty of food and water, and its own motivation.

The result was a mouse which, unlike humans, picked up the motivation to exercise and the desire to constantly improve its fitness, running longer and longer distances, faster and faster.

"The basic finding on the mice was that exercise kicked off all sorts of protective mechanisms in the body, which receded when we took the wheel away and returned when we returned it. This proves the basic concept of exercise as medicine," Budiono said.

"The odd thing is, mice don’t run anywhere near that distance in the wild, there is something about the wheel that makes them addicted to it. We know from all those unused treadmills that humans won’t use a piece of equipment just because it’s there."

Could it be bottled?

Budiono hopes that by isolating important mechanisms involved in the effects of exercise, there may be a future in creating personalised medicine (through education), or perhaps a pill that could replicate some of the effects of exercise for people who are bedridden.

"Sometimes the motivation to get up and do something is the best medicine you can find," Budiono said.

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