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Is Workout Motivation Hereditary?

The desire to exercise—or not—may be genetic.
People running on treadmills

It seems as though some people are just hardwired to exercise, doesn’t it? Well, according to a new study published in The Journal of Physiology, the desire to go after it might come from your parents.

Scientists at the University of Missouri bred male and female rats that had voluntarily run the most on wheels in the lab. Then they did the same with rats that ran the least.

The researchers found that the animals that were bred to exercise, given the opportunity, were more likely to exercise voluntarily than the offspring of more sedentary rats. Another interesting finding was that when scientists examined the brains of the rats, they found that the animals that were bred to run had more mature neurons in the nucleus accumbens, the part of the brain responsible for reward processing. In another experiment, researchers placed the less active rats on running wheels, encouraging them to exercise. After six days, although they had run less than the activity-bred animals, their brains began to show more mature neurons in their nucleus accumbens.

In other words, they were training themselves to enjoy exercise. Dr. Frank Booth, a professor of biomedical sciences at the University of Missouri, told The New York Times that the data suggest “that humans may have genes for motivation to exercise and other genes for motivation to sit on the couch.”

Now we might not have brains like rats, but this should tell us that even if we've picked up laziness from our parents, it's no excuse to skip the gym. 

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