In DepthPhysiology

Birds don't need exercise to stay fit for epic flights

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Science  13 Jan 2017:
Vol. 355, Issue 6321, pp. 121
DOI: 10.1126/science.355.6321.121

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Anyone who rose morning after morning this week for an exhausting and ache-generating exercise class to fulfill a New Year's resolution will envy the bar-headed goose. The bird has the strength and endurance to fly 4000 kilometers over the Himalayas without having to do a lick of exercise to prepare. Reported last week at the annual meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, the goose study is one of several examples of birds that can, in effect, get up from the couch ready to run a marathon—a painful contrast to humans, with our need for regular exercise to stay in shape. They may be able to avoid training because their bodies are so well adapted to make sure enough oxygen gets to their muscles. And extra exercise can have a downside, work in zebra finches shows. More work needs to be done, however, to determine whether any other animals are like us and need to use it or lose it when it comes to being fit.

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