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Physiol Behav. 2008 Mar 18;93(4-5):1044-54. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2008.01.013. Epub 2008 Jan 26.

Selection for aerobic capacity affects corticosterone, monoamines and wheel-running activity.

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Department of Biology, The University of South Dakota, Vermillion, SD, USA.


A positive genetic relationship between aerobic capacity and voluntary exercise has been suggested from earlier studies of mice selected for increased wheel-running activity. To further investigate the relationship between aerobic capacity and exercise behavior, wheel-running activity was studied in female rats bidirectionally selected for intrinsic aerobic capacity (high capacity runners - HCR; low capacity runners - LCR). Aerobic capacity was measured using a forced treadmill paradigm; the subpopulations of animals used in this experiment exhibited a 471% difference in endurance capacity. Rats were housed individually, with or without access to running wheels. Wheel-running activity was recorded and analyzed from weeks two through seven during an eight-week trial to determine voluntary activity levels. HCR animals exhibited 33% greater total wheel-running distance per day compared to LCR rats (16,838.7+1337.30 m versus 12,665.8+893.88 m), which was due to the HCR rats exhibiting increases in both running speed and duration over LCR rats. Differences in the intermittency of wheel running were also observed. HCR rats engaged in more bouts of running per day than LCR rats, and trended towards running faster, for more time, and for longer distances during bouts of running than LCR rats. Following the running trial, measurement of plasma corticosterone concentration and striatal dopaminergic activity showed differences between HCR and LCR rats, suggesting a divergence of physiological systems that could potentially influence locomotor behaviors in these lines. These results are consistent with earlier work, and suggest an evolutionarily conserved relationship between physiological capacity and behavioral activity of exercise.

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