Document Type


Date of Original Version



Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences


Cardiovascular exercise (CVE) is associated with healthy aging and reduced risk of disease in humans, with similar benefits seen in animals. Most rodent studies, however, have used shorter intervention periods of a few weeks to a few months, begging questions as to the effects of longer-term, or even life-long, exercise. Additionally, most animal studies have utilized a single exercise treatment group – usually unlimited running wheel access – resulting in large volumes of exercise that are not clinically relevant. It is therefore incumbent to determine the physiological and cognitive/behavioral effects of a range of exercise intensities and volumes over a long-term period that model a lifelong commitment to CVE. In the current study, C57/Bl6 mice remained sedentary or were allowed either 1, 3, or 12 h of access to a running wheel per day, 5 days/weeks, beginning at 3.5–4 months of age. Following an eight-month intervention period, animals underwent a battery of behavioral testing, then euthanized and blood and tissue were collected. Longer access to a running wheel resulted in greater volume and higher running speed, but more breaks in running. All exercise groups showed similarly reduced body weight, increased muscle mass, improved motor function on the rotarod, and reduced anxiety in the open field. While all exercise groups showed increased food intake, this was greatest in the 12 h group but did not differ between 1 h and 3 h mice. While exercise dose-dependently increased working memory performance in the y-maze, the 1 h and 12 h groups showed the largest changes in the mass of many organs, as well as alterations in several behaviors including social interaction, novel object recognition, and Barnes maze performance. These findings suggest that long-term exercise has widespread effects on physiology, behavior, and cognition, which vary by “dose” and measure, and that even relatively small amounts of daily exercise can provide benefits.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


John K. Robinson is affiliated with the Department of Psychology.

William E. Van Nostrand is affiliated with the Department of Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences.