We all know how challenging it can be to stay motivated to exercise, but could the answer to our struggle lie within our gut health? A recent study published in the journal Nature has shed light on the connection between gut bacteria and exercise motivation in mice.
The Study: Gut Bacteria Key to Mice's Exercise Motivation
Researchers used a machine-learning algorithm to analyze a variety of factors, including genome sequences, gut bacteria species, and bloodstream metabolites, in order to understand why some mice used their exercise wheel frequently while others mostly ignored it.
To their surprise, the results showed that genetics played a minimal role in determining activity levels. Instead, the gut bacteria appeared to be the driving force behind the mice's motivation to exercise.
When the mice were given broad-spectrum antibiotics, wiping out their gut bacteria, the distance they ran decreased by 50%. The researchers then sequenced RNA in the mice's striatum, the part of the brain responsible for motivation, and found reduced levels of dopamine compared to the control group. This indicated that the antibiotic-treated mice were receiving less of a dopamine boost after their exercise.
The Good Bacteria: Eubacterium rectale and Coprococcus eutactus
After several years of extensive experimentation, the researchers identified two specific bacterial strains that were linked to improved performance: Eubacterium rectale and Coprococcus eutactus. These bacterial species produce fatty acid amides that interact with endocannabinoid receptors in the gut.
Endocannabinoid receptors signal the brain to decrease monoamine oxidase, a compound that breaks down dopamine. By decreasing monoamine oxidase, there is an increase in dopamine, resulting in the feel-good effect of exercise and a desire to repeat it.
The Human Connection: Can Gut Health Improve Exercise Motivation?
Now, the crucial question remains: Does this gut-brain connection also apply to humans? Could changing our gut microbiome help us to stick to our new year's resolution of exercising? Fortunately, these studies are already underway, and we may soon have the answer.
This study opens up a new avenue of exploration into the connection between gut health and exercise motivation. The findings highlight the significant impact that gut bacteria can have on our motivation to exercise, and the potential for changing our gut microbiome to improve our exercise habits. The future is exciting, and we can't wait to see what new discoveries come from this research.
Dohnalová, L., Lundgren, P., Carty, J.R.E. et al. A microbiome-dependent gut–brain pathway regulates motivation for exercise. Nature 612, 739–747 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-022-05525-z