Recently, we reported that voluntary resistance wheel running with a resistance of 30% of body weight (RWR), which produces shorter distances but higher work levels, enhances spatial memory associated with hippocampal brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) signaling compared to wheel running without a load (WR) . We thus hypothesized that RWR promotes adult hippocampal neurogenesis (AHN) as a neuronal substrate underlying this memory improvement. Here we used 10-week-old male Wistar rats divided randomly into sedentary (Sed), WR, and RWR groups. All rats were injected intraperitoneally with the thymidine analogue 5-Bromo-2'-deoxuridine (BrdU) for 3 consecutive days before wheel running. We found that even when the average running distance decreased by about half, the average work levels significantly increased in the RWR group, which caused muscular adaptation (oxidative capacity) for fast-twitch plantaris muscle without causing any negative stress effects. Additionally, immunohistochemistry revealed that the total BrdU-positive cells and newborn mature cells (BrdU/NeuN double-positive) in the dentate gyrus increased in both the WR and RWR groups. These results provide new evidence that RWR has beneficial effects on AHN comparable to WR, even with short running distances.
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