The gut microbiome is a collection of microorganisms in the digestive system that have been found to play a vital role in human health. They can stimulate the immune system, protect against harmful pathogens, and even impact our sleep, moods, and risk for certain diseases, according to research.
Recent research on mice, published in the scientific journal Nature, has also suggested that the gut microbiome may affect an individual’s motivation to exercise, adding another potential benefit to the list of ways in which these microorganisms impact our overall well-being.
How Your Gut Bacteria May Affect Your Exercise Motivation
According to a recent study of mice published in the journal Nature, the gut microbiome may affect motivation to exercise. The study showed that the desire to exercise in mice is influenced by the microbiome, and provides a mechanistic explanation of how the microbiome could influence the animals’ appetite for exercise.
While mouse studies alone cannot prove that humans’ willingness to exercise is regulated in the same way, studying rodents is a step toward understanding ourselves, scientists say.
In a previous study published in the journal Behavioural Processes, mice bred for running ran less when given antibiotics that destroyed their microbiomes. In the recent study, scientists collected 2.1 million data points on 199 mice, including their genetic makeup, gut microbiome composition, and exercise capacity. The researchers also used antibiotics to partially or fully remove some of the mice’s microbiomes.
According to an article in Smithsonian Magazine, a recent study published in Nature suggests that the gut microbiome may impact motivation to exercise in mice.
Anthony Komaroff, a physician at Harvard University, who did not participate in the study, explained that “the study shows pretty conclusively that in mice, the desire to exercise is influenced by the microbiome”. This study is significant because it provides a mechanistic explanation for how the microbiome might impact the animals’ desire to exercise.
Connection Between Gut Bacteria and Exercise Motivation
A similar study published last year in the journal Behavioural Processes found that mice bred to be strong runners ran less when given antibiotics that destroyed their microbiomes. The more recent study involved collecting data on 199 mice and their microbiome composition, exercise capacity, and genetics.
The team found that the microbiome had a greater effect on the mice’s inclination to exercise than genetics. Mice with diminished microbiomes spent less time exercising on a wheel and became fatigued more quickly when running on a treadmill.
Researchers transplanted microbiomes from strong running mice into other mice, which made them more capable of exercising. The team also found that neurons involved in producing dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps us feel pleasure, played a role in the connection between exercise and the microbiome. Blocking any part of the path from the microbiome to dopamine release led the mice to exercise less.
Christoph Thaiss, a microbiologist at the University of Pennsylvania and co-author of the study, explains, “Surprisingly, the motivation for exercise is not brain-intrinsic but is regulated by the gastrointestinal tract”. Theodore Garland Jr., an evolutionary physiologist at the University of California, Riverside, who co-authored last June’s paper but did not participate in the recent research, called this study the “most comprehensive study I have ever seen.”
Future Human Studies
The researchers involved in the study are planning to conduct further research on humans to verify whether the findings on rodents also apply to humans. If the results of the human study are consistent with those of the rodent study, it could have implications for treating symptoms of various diseases that could be alleviated by exercise, according to the Scientist.
Christoph Thaiss, a microbiologist at the University of Pennsylvania and a co-author of the study, states that there are many differences between mice and human physiology, but they are planning a human study to answer this question, as per National Geographic.
Gut bacteria, essential for health, may affect our desire to exercise, a recent study on mice suggests. These microorganisms impact immunity, protect against diseases, and could influence overall well-being. Human studies are planned to explore if similar connections exist, potentially providing insights into using exercise for treating various diseases.