Voluntary exercise - activity wheel test

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The rodent Activity Wheel represents a very simple and clever way to register animal physical activity in its home cage environment.

The use of this high throughput tool is particularly relevant for research involving circadian rhythms, phenotyping and drug testing. Typically, the time and distance run on a voluntary running wheel are monitored over several days or weeks to determine whether a particular substance or experimental manipulation has an effect on exercise behaviour.

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Reasons for choosing this test

  • Rodent voluntary exercise registering: allows animals to exercise when and at the intensity that they choose
  • Availability of a running wheel may reduce the effects of chronic stress on depression-like signs in mice
  • Less labour intensive than treadmill running because researchers need not be present during wheel running
  • Relatively inexpensive setup
  • Ideal for high throughput experiments: many animals can be trained at the same time
  • Sensitive for both rats and mice

Reasons for not choosing this test

  • The researcher cannot control the intensity and duration of exercise
  • Certain lines of transgenic mice may not engage in enough voluntary wheel running exercise to produce training adaptations
  • No suitable for studies that require precise timing to explore acute postexercise adaptations (intermittent running throughout the active cycle)
  • Cancer
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