Unmotivated to exercise? Dopamine could be to blame

Perhaps you have told yourself many times that, as of next week, you will start exercising more. Perhaps next month. Maybe even next year. For many of us, however, sticking to a disciplined program of physical exercise is one of the hardest New Year’s resolutions. New research offers clues as to why finding the motivation to exercise can be so difficult.
The benefits of physical activity are well known. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that regular physical activity can reduce the risk of severe illnesses, such as type 2 diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. Exercise can also improve one’s overall physical and mental health, as well as increase longevity.
If you are looking to control your weight, the advantages of exercise are numerous. Not only has physical activity been shown to reduce metabolic syndrome – which means that it is good for regulating one’s metabolism – but it also burns calories, and in combination with a healthful diet, exercise can help to maintain weight over a long period of time.
While many people are aware of the benefits of physical activity in theory, many of us find it particularly hard in practice to stay physically active. New research may help to explain why this is so.
Lead researcher Alexxai V. Kravitz – of the Diabetes, Endocrinology, and Obesity Branch at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) – wondered why it is that obese animals have such a hard time doing physical activity.
The common perception is that animals, or people that are obese, are less physically active because they have to carry much more body weight. However, because Kravitz has a background in Parkinson’s disease, he noticed similarities between obese mice and Parkinsonian mice while he was studying.
This triggered his hypothesis that perhaps something else could contribute to physical inactivity. “We know that physical activity is linked to overall good health, but not much is known about why people or animals with obesity are less active. There is a common belief that obese animals don’t move as much because carrying extra body weight is physically disabling. But our findings suggest that assumption does not explain the whole story.” Kravitz hypothesized that a dysfunction in rodents’ dopamine system might help to explain their lack of physical activity.