To investigate whether the type of physical activity, voluntary or forced, would promote different morphological changes in hippocampal formation we performed an immunocytochemical study using the parvalbumin (PV) distribution as a marker. Animals submitted to the voluntary exercise were placed in a voluntary wheel running and those submitted to the forced exercise were placed in a motor driven treadmill. Both exercise groups were submitted to 10 consecutive days of physical activity. It was observed a higher number of PV-positive cells in the hilus of dentate gyrus (DG) in the voluntary and forced exercise groups when compared to the control group. The voluntary exercise group also presented a stronger fiber staining in the DG hilus than the forced exercise and control groups. In contrast, no differences were found in the pattern of PV staining in CA1/CA3 region between exercise and control groups. These findings demonstrate that physical activity leads to prominent plastic changes in the hippocampal formation of rats that were more evident following voluntary activity.