The rat is widely used in studies of the metabolic and physiological effects of physical exercise. The most commonly used form of exercise is running on treadmills or mechanically driven running wheels. Rats will not voluntarily run significant distances, under normal circumstances. If rats are exposed to running wheels with food freely available, only very limited activity normally occurs. When rats with access to a running wheel are restricted to a fixed amount of food, presented once per day, consistent running occurs. The running is spontaneous and very sensitive to the amount of food provided. Six 6-wk-old rats of 197 g mean body wt were induced to run for 139 days. The distance run increased rapidly over a 20-day initial period on a food supply of 15 g/day (vs. 19.5 g/day consumption by sedentary controls). From day 20 to day 139 the mean distance run was described by the regression equation distance (m/day) = 10,410 – 37.9 X days. Food provided was varied according to distance run, ranging from 15 to 18 g/day, and was normally 17.5 g/day. Thus a food deprivation of 10% of normal consumption will result in mean distances run of approximately 8,000 m/day. The use of pair-fed control animals without access to a wheel allows the conduct of experiments to test the effects of chronic long-distance running. The running is spontaneous; thus the technique avoids the complications accompanying techniques that force running.
- Copyright © 1987 the American Physiological Society