Physiological and behavioural consequences of long-term moderate treadmill exercise

Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2012 Nov;37(11):1745-54. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2012.03.008. Epub 2012 Apr 1.


The benefits of long-term moderate exercise for health are widely accepted in humans, but few animal studies have been undertaken to characterize the effects of such activity on emotionality and responsiveness to stress. The present study describes the effects of long-term moderate forced treadmill training (36 weeks) on exploratory activity, anxiety-like behaviour, and the resting or stress levels of some physiological variables, including pituitary-adrenal (PA) hormones. Five-week-old male Sprague-Dawley rats were trained on the treadmill (TM) for 36 weeks, using a more moderate training (12m/min, 30min/day, 4-5 days/week) than that currently used in the literature. Two groups were used as controls: a non-handled sedentary (SED) group, receiving no manipulation, and a control (CON) group exposed to a stationary treadmill for the same amount of time as the TM group. In accordance with literature data, TM rats showed lower resting levels of glucose, triglycerides and cholesterol than the other two groups. The TM and CON groups both showed higher ambulation than the SED group in some behavioural tests, without evidence for altered anxiety. Resting levels of adrenocorticotropin (ACTH) and corticosterone did not differ among the groups, but a reduced ACTH response to both a novel environment (mild stressor) and an active escape-avoidance task (severe stressor) was observed in TM rats, whereas changes in corticosterone were modest. The results support the view that the physiological consequences of long-term moderate training are beneficial, including reduced PA responsiveness to stress, even though exercise training did not affect anxiety-like behaviour.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone / blood
  • Animals
  • Anxiety / blood
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Blood Glucose / physiology
  • Cholesterol / blood
  • Corticosterone / blood
  • Male
  • Physical Conditioning, Animal / physiology*
  • Physical Conditioning, Animal / psychology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Sedentary Behavior
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Stress, Psychological / blood
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology
  • Triglycerides / blood
  • Walking / physiology


  • Blood Glucose
  • Triglycerides
  • Adrenocorticotropic Hormone
  • Cholesterol
  • Corticosterone