Voluntary scheduled exercise alters diurnal rhythms of behaviour, physiology and gene expression in wild-type and vasoactive intestinal peptide-deficient mice

J Physiol. 2012 Dec 1;590(23):6213-26. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2012.233676. Epub 2012 Sep 17.


The circadian system co-ordinates the temporal patterning of behaviour and many underlying biological processes. In some cases, the regulated outputs of the circadian system, such as activity, may be able to feed back to alter core clock processes. In our studies, we used four wheel-access conditions (no access; free access; early night; and late night) to manipulate the duration and timing of activity while under the influence of a light-dark cycle. In wild-type mice, scheduled wheel access was able to increase ambulatory activity, inducing a level of exercise driven at various phases of the light-dark cycle. Scheduled exercise also manipulated the magnitude and phasing of the circadian-regulated outputs of heart rate and body temperature. At a molecular level, the phasing and amplitude of PER2::LUCIFERASE (PER2::LUC) expression rhythms in the SCN and peripheral tissues of Per2::Luc knockin mice were altered by scheduled exercise. We then tested whether scheduled wheel access could improve deficits observed in vasointestinal polypeptide-deficient mice under the influence of a light-dark cycle. We found that scheduled wheel access during the late night improved many of the behavioural, physiological and molecular deficits previously described in vasointestinal polypeptide-deficient mice. Our results raise the possibility that scheduled exercise could be used as a tool to modulate daily rhythms and, when applied, may counteract some of the negative impacts of ageing and disease on the circadian system.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Body Temperature / physiology
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology*
  • Gene Expression
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Period Circadian Proteins / genetics
  • Physical Conditioning, Animal / physiology*
  • Vasoactive Intestinal Peptide / physiology*


  • Per2 protein, mouse
  • Period Circadian Proteins
  • Vasoactive Intestinal Peptide