Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Neuroscience. 2008 Oct 15;156(3):456-65. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2008.07.041. Epub 2008 Jul 26.

Forced and voluntary exercise differentially affect brain and behavior.

Author information

  • 1Department of Psychology, 126 Heyne Building, University of Houston, Houston, TX 77204, USA.


The potential of physical exercise to decrease body weight, alleviate depression, combat aging and enhance cognition has been well-supported by research studies. However, exercise regimens vary widely across experiments, raising the question of whether there is an optimal form, intensity and duration of exertion that would produce maximal benefits. In particular, a comparison of forced and voluntary exercise is needed, since the results of several prior studies suggest that they may differentially affect brain and behavior. In the present study, we employed a novel 8-week exercise paradigm that standardized the distance, pattern, equipment and housing condition of forced and voluntary exercisers. Exercising rats were then compared with sedentary controls on measures previously shown to be influenced by physical activity. Our results indicate that although the distance covered by both exercise groups was the same, voluntary exercisers ran at higher speed and for less total time than forced exercisers. When compared with sedentary controls, forced but not voluntary exercise was found to increase anxiety-like behaviors in the open field. Both forms of exercise increased the number of surviving bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU)+ cells in the dentate gyrus after 8 weeks of exercise, although forced exercisers had significantly more than voluntary exercisers. Phenotypic analysis of BrdU+ cells showed no difference between groups in the percentage of newborn cells that became neurons, however, because forced exercise maximally increased the number of BrdU+ cells, it ultimately produced more neurons than voluntary exercise. Our results indicate that forced and voluntary exercise are inherently different: voluntary wheel running is characterized by rapid pace and short duration, whereas forced exercise involves a slower, more consistent pace for longer periods of time. This basic difference between the two forms of exercise is likely responsible for their differential effects on brain and behavior.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Elsevier Science
    Loading ...
    Support Center