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Treadmill running produces both positive and negative physiological adaptations in Sprague-Dawley rats.

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Departments of Kinesiology and Applied Physiology, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado 80309, USA.


Exercise training produces a vast array of physiological adaptations, ranging from changes in metabolism to muscle mitochondrial biogenesis. Researchers studying the physiological effects of exercise often use animal models that employ forced exercise regimens that include aversive motivation, which could activate the stress response. This study examined the effect of forced treadmill running (8 wk) on several physiological systems that are sensitive to training and stress. Forced treadmill running produced both positive and negative physiological adaptations. Indicative of positive training adaptations, exercised male Sprague-Dawley rats had a decrease in body weight gain and an increase in muscle citrate synthase activity compared with sedentary controls. In contrast, treadmill running also resulted in the potentially negative adaptations of adrenal hypertrophy, thymic involution, decreased serum corticosteroid binding globulin, elevated lymphocyte nitrite concentrations, suppressed lymphocyte proliferation, and suppressed antigen-specific IgM. Such alterations in neuroendocrine tissues and immune responses are commonly associated with chronic stress. Thus treadmill running produces both positive training adaptations and potentially negative adaptations that are indicative of chronic stress. Researchers employing forced activity need to be aware that this type of exercise procedure also produces physiological adaptations indicative of chronic stress and that these changes could potentially impact other measures of interest.

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