Puberty in female rats: relative effect of exercise and food restriction

Am J Physiol. 1987 Jan;252(1 Pt 2):R140-4. doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.1987.252.1.R140.


Reproductive development in relation to growth and fat deposition was compared in three groups of female rats: a group that was allowed to grow only slowly by requiring them to work hard on a running wheel for their food; a group in which the same slow rate of growth was imposed by restricting their food intake, but without an exercise requirement; and a normally growing, nonexercising, ad libitum-fed, control group. Animals forced to run for their food experienced vaginal opening at a significantly lower body weight than either of the other two groups. The same trend was apparent for the first ovulation, but not significant. Thus the present results suggest that, under some conditions, intense exercise may actually accelerate rather than decelerate reproductive development, at least relative to body weight. With the possible exception of body weight, none of the whole-body parameters measured in this experiment (body weight, growth rate, or amount of fat) were found to be critically related to the first ovulation when all three groups of females were considered as a unit. Thus the present results also argue against some of the current hypotheses, all developed using dietary manipulation, that the onset of fertility is somehow dependent on one of these factors.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Weight
  • Diet, Reducing*
  • Female
  • Ovulation
  • Physical Exertion*
  • Rats
  • Sexual Maturation*
  • Vagina / growth & development