What we can all learn from bullied mice that exercise
Exercise makes one feel great, boosting physical and mental health, but why does physical activity make you feel good?
To see how much exercise is required to relieve stress, researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health observed how prior exercise changed the interactions between aggressive and reserved mice. When placed in the same cage, stronger mice tend to bully the meeker ones. In this study, the small mice that did not have access to running wheels and other exercise equipment before cohabitating with the aggressive mice were extremely stressed and nervous, cowering in dark corners or freezing when placed in an unfamiliar territory. Yet meek rodents that had a chance to exercise before encountering their bullies exhibited resistance to stress. They were submissive while living with the aggressive mice but bounced back when they were alone. The researchers concluded that even a small amount of exercise gave the meeker mice emotional resilience.
The scientists looked at the brain cells of these so-called stress-resistant mice and found that the rodents exhibited more activity in their medial prefrontal cortex and their amygdala, both of which are involved in processing emotions. The mice that did not exercise before moving in with the aggressive mice showed less activity in these parts of the brain.
Whether you exercise a little or a lot, the evidence is clear: do something good for your mind and body, exercise.