Can exercise early in life lead to benefits as an adult?
That was the question University of California, Riverside biologists explored in a recent experiment on mice. The researchers found early-age exercise in mice has positive effects on adult levels of voluntary exercise and reduces body mass.
“These results may have implications for the importance of regular physical education in elementary and middle schools,” Professor of Biology and research leader Theodore Garland said in a statement. “If kids exercise regularly through the school years, then they may be more likely to exercise as adults, which could have far-reaching positive effects on human health and well-being."
Garland said modest levels of exercise could lower body mass without triggering food intake responses. If the same behavior relationship in mice exists with humans, Garland said it could be valuable in determining recommended daily exercise criteria.
The research was conducted on male mice, half of which were selectively bred for high voluntary wheel running (high runners). The high runners were allowed wheel access when they were just over three weeks old for 21 days, which got the mice through puberty. The other half were not given wheel access during the same period.
After the 21 days, researchers removed the wheels for seven weeks and followed by returning the wheels for about two weeks while monitoring cage activity, food consumption and body mass.
The researchers found increased adult wheel running on both high runners and control mice during the first two weeks of adult testing.
“Although the positive effect of early-life exercise lasted for only one week, it is important to note that one week in the life of a mouse is equivalent to about nine months for humans,” Garland said. “Our results suggest that any positive effects of early-life exercise on adult exercise propensity will require reinforcement and maintenance if they are to be long-lasting.”
The research also discovered the high runners were lighter in weight compared to the control mice.
Garland said exercise eventually will stimulate appetite, but it is possible certain types of moderate exercise may not stimulate appetite in some individuals.
“If we could understand what sorts of exercise these might be, then we might be able to tailor exercise recommendations in a way that would bring the benefits of exercise without the compensatory increases in appetite that usually occur, hence leading to better prospects for weight loss,” he said.