Mice and other small animals — just like many humans — exercise because they like to, a Dutch study recently found.
"There's something attractive about being able to get in a wheel and run unfettered
," Ted Garland, an evolutionary physiologist at the University of California, Riverside, told Science magazine regarding a study that found that mice run on wheels — even in the wild.
In a three-year study that began in 2009, neurophysiologist Johanna Meijer tracked whether mice would use a standard running wheel inside an open cage in the backyard of her home.
She and colleagues from Leiden University in the Netherlands used a motion-detecting infrared camera, along with food pellets and chocolate crumbs as bait, in the experiment, Science magazine reports. They also utilized a second location.
After taking the bait, the animals got on the wheel and started running, the researchers found. Over the study, more than 200,000 animals — rats, shrews, even frogs — used the wheel.
They ran for an average of 1 to 2 minutes, which was similar to laboratory rats.
"The creatures seemed to relish the feeling of running without going anywhere," the Science report says. The findings were published this week in the journal "Proceedings of the Royal Society B."
Garland, who was not involved in the research, suggested to Science that the wheel might have provided a more secure way for the animals to run — versus darting across an open field, for instance.
The animals even kept running after the bait was removed and "sometimes, the rodents were so eager to run that they couldn’t wait to take turns," the report says.
At one point, a large mouse knocked another one off the wheel when it got on and started running in the opposite direction, the researchers found.
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