NEW RESEARCH suggests that our propensity to enjoy exercise lies in our genes. Researchers at the University of Missouri, US, bred two types of rat – running addicts and exercise haters. Then they examined gene activity in the rats’ brains, focusing on the nucleus accumbens, which is involved in reward processing. By young adulthood, the runners had a great number of mature neurons in this area than the non-exercisers (regardless of how often they’d run), which predisposed them to find running pleasurable. The researchers thought the non-runners would gain less gratification from running and so be less likely to do it because they had fewer mature neurons. But when all the rodents were set on running wheels, the reluctant runners developed more neurons in their reward centres. Over time, this could make exercise more alluring, which is good news for those of us who sometimes find running a chore – so keep on lacing up!


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