Smell could play an important role in motivating exercise, according to a new scientific study.

In addition to our mood, lifestyle, goals or fatigue, our sense of smell could affect our motivation to exercise, reveals a new study published in the journal Plos One. Researchers at the University of California at Riverside (United States) have discovered that olfaction may be involved in motivating mammals to voluntarily engage in physical exercise.

“Exercise, which is essential for physical and mental health, can help prevent obesity and other diseases and disorders related to inactivity in humans,” recalled Sachiko Haga-Yamanaka, assistant professor of molecular, cellular, and systems biology at UC Riverside and the lead author of the study. “Some people like to exercise more than others, but it is not clear why this is so,” he added.

To determine genetic contributions to traits related to voluntary exercise, Haga-Yamanaka and his team subjected mice to a voluntary wheel running, called “voluntary wheel running,” or VWR. This is when a mouse starts running in a wheel when it has access to this type of equipment. The team created lines of mice with high VWR activity, let's call them VWR +. The “normal”, unselected mice constituted the control group.

Genetic differences in the olfactory system

To their surprise, the scientists then discovered that the VWR + mice had developed genetic differences in their olfactory system (precisely in the vomeronasal organ) that allowed them to perceive smells differently from controls.

“It's not inconceivable that one day we may be able to isolate chemicals and use them as air fresheners in gyms to make people even more motivated to exercise,” Theodore Garland, co-author of the study, said in view of the results, and the researcher summed it up in three simple words: “spray, sniff and squat”, in other words “spray, smell, flex”.

Researchers now plan to conduct new experiments to isolate particular chemicals believed to have been produced by mice, possibly in urine, and to determine if and how these chemicals increase motivation to exercise.

 Source : MedicalXpress