Apparently This Matters: Mice actually like the wheel

Turns out mice like to run on the wheel. And then tweet about it. Because they're just as smug as your friends.

Story highlights

  • A three-year study proves that mice actually like running on a wheel
  • Researchers put wheels in nature to see if animals would use them of their own free will
  • The study may disprove the notion that captive mice run on wheels due to neurotic behavior

Have you ever seen a man running in a marathon, bleeding from his nipples?

It's a real thing. It happens.

And it's proof that, unless you are being chased by a bear, running is just a terrible idea.

Because, you know what doesn't lead to nipple bleeding? TV and Doritos.

(Except for one time. But that's a long, complicated story that I can't get into until I've negotiated the movie rights.)

That said, many people still insist they run for fun -- that somehow it's pleasurable. And, for some reason, nobody ever questions their sanity.

"Apparently This Matters" Is Jarrett Bellini's weekly (and somewhat random) look at social-media trends.

"Diane, these men in white are here to take you to a special place."

"Oh! Can I bring my Fitbit?"

I would like to say that humans are the only species crazy enough to run because "Ha ha, whee!" but we're not. For example, my dog seems to enjoy it. Though it's also worth noting that Mikey's nickname is Big Stupid.

But other animals seem to truly like it as well. And now we have science to prove it.

In fact, two researchers in the Netherlands recently found that mice actually enjoy running on a wheel.

Just for fun.

Of course, mice have long been used in laboratory exercise studies, and some have questioned whether the results are accurate due to the possibility that, maybe, the mice are just nervously reacting to being held in captivity.

"Steve, this sucks. I'm gonna hit the wheel."

Thus, Johanna Meijer, from the Leiden University Medical Centre, was inspired to see if mice choosing to run was a byproduct of neurotic behavior, or, rather just something they're into.

Which, it turns out, they are.

And it was a fairly easy study to conduct.

Essentially, Meijer left a wheel in her backyard with some food pellets nearby. The mice eventually found the wheel, and then they ran in it. Because they're stupid. And have apparently never heard of Netflix.

Over time, the pellets were removed from the experiment, and the free-range mice continued to hit up the wheel, though less frequently.

"Ohmygod. Ohmygod. Ohmygod. I love running. Hold me back, scientist. Hold me back."

For three years, Meijer (along with her colleagues) monitored these mice with infrared motion detectors, collecting 12,000 video clips, and found that even out in the open -- free in the wild where they could literally go nuts and do anything they wanted, including some sort of weird mouse version of Burning Man -- these little creatures seemed to really just enjoy running.

Naturally, I assume that after stepping off the wheel, several of the mice immediately went on Twitter to brag about their workout. They're just as smug as your friends.

"2,000 rotations on the wheel tonight. Gr8 way 2 start the week. #LiveStrong"

But it wasn't specifically a mouse thing. The researchers also observed other stupid animals checking out the wheel, including frogs and slugs. Though not with the same gusto.

Presumably, these slightly smarter animals had a bit of fun with the odd contraption, and chose, ultimately, to wander off somewhere in the woods to get high and listen to old Zappa records.

The study results were published on Wednesday in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

So, knowing what we now know, what does it all mean?

For starters, I suppose that, yes, we can, perhaps, feel slightly better about ourselves for basking in the amusement of watching captive mice run on a wheel. It's comforting to know that it's not necessarily stress that's making them run like idiots.

Which is good for both science and the soul. But, beyond that, I'm not exactly sure this changes anything.

Hypothesis: Mice are just as stupid as humans.

"Hey, human. What's up with your nipples?"

Because, as we've already established, running is questionably sane. Never mind the bloody nipples. Even worse, going out for a jog sort of means you have to leave the house.

And, in most communities, that requires pants.

Thus, if you need me, I'll be on the sofa watching re-runs of "Law & Order," where the windows are open and the dress code is exceedingly more liberal.

Ask my horrified neighbors.

And I'll celebrate my lack of healthy accomplishment by putting a 26.2 sticker on my car, so everyone knows the number of minutes I got into an episode before passing out with my Doritos.

But at least my nipples won't bleed.

This time.

Follow @JarrettBellini on Twitter.