Ferreting out why you hate to exercise

ferret struggling to exercise Ferreting out why you hate to exerciseDid you know Mother Nature has programmed you to enjoy exercise ?

Really, this is not a joke, even if you are a certified couch potato, you are wired to go for a long run – doing so will bring you pleasure ! Plus a truck load of other health benefits including a charged up heart battery and the ability to think like Einstein.

The chemical incentive

Researchers from the University of Arizona have discovered Mother Nature has incentivized exercise in animals meant to move. And, since humans have this circuit tucked inside their brain’s, it means Mother Nature intended for you to move about a lot and to enjoy it.

Sedentary living is a modern phenomenon that is violating the genes.

Finding out who is wired to run

Humans are. Dogs are too. Ferrets aren’t.

The Arizona team recruited a couple of runners – both human and canine from the local community and conscripted a few ferrets, to explore the phenomenon of the “runner’s high”.

Participants were expected to walk and run on a treadmill, before and after the exercise sessions, blood samples were taken and tested for the presence of endocannabinoids.

First off, both the humans and dogs enjoyed the experience – the ferrets participation on the other hand, was a big strain all round. Running is not what ferrets do.

The runners high is real

The research team found, the concentration of anandamide, an endocannabinoid, rocketed in the blood of both the dogs and humans, following a brisk run. The humans reported feeling good after the exercise and although the dogs could not complete the questionnaire – tails were definitely wagging furiously.

The ferrets on the other hand were in a mood, treadmill running had been a strain and the blood work revealed the run had done nothing to anandamide levels.

The Endocannabinoid reward

Anandamide is one of a family of compounds classified as an endocannabinoid. If you’ve never heard of the stuff – look carefully, cannabinoid, looks a lot like Cannabis, better known as dagga, to South Africans and marijuana to Americans.

Yup, going for a brisk run – feels good, because your brain is actually smoking a little pot. The brain is producing a chemical that works the same way as the active ingredient in pot. Too much of it of course makes you potty !

Definitely an incentive to go for a brisk run every now and again ! Mother Nature has made exercising easy for humans, because she wants us to do it.

Ferrets find it a nightmare, because it is not what ferret’s are supposed to do.

Where is mine ?

Most dedicated human athletes report experiencing this feel good feeling , the so-called “runner’s high” when they exercise. This is why, rain or shine, they put on their running shoes and hit the road.

By now you might be thinking – what the hell is wrong with me ? Pounding the pavement feels more like punishment and less like pleasure.

The problem is not because you’re carrying ferret genes – you’re not doing it properly !

The research team suspect couch potatoes are probably not fit enough to reach high enough levels of exercise intensity, to get a dose of Mother Nature’s reward

Bummer ……….

Stay motivated until you become motivated

If the idea of getting off your butt and going for a run, is thoroughly demotivating – it is simply a body chemistry problem.

If you can get up off the couch and begin moving, it will become progressively easier until……………. one day it actually becomes a pleasure. SERIOUSLY !

Mother Nature wants you to MOVE.

PS. You might want to grab something cold to keep you pushing through until your brain’s motivation system kicks in and then be sure to sign up for a muscle massage afterwards.

Wired to run: exercise-induced endocannabinoid signaling in humans and cursorial mammals with implications for the ‘runner’s high’. Journal of Experimental Biology (2012) 215:1331-1336. David A. Raichlen, Adam D. Foster, Gregory L. Gerdeman, Alexandre Seillier and Andrea Giuffrida. 

Interested in learning more about the chemistry behind your highs and lows ?

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Further reading

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