Post-Grant Reports


Exploring the Reciprocal Relationship between Stress and Physical Activity

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Circulatory and Respiratory Physiology | Exercise Physiology | Health Psychology | Mental and Social Health


Regular physical activity (PA) is well known to positively impact physical and mental health outcomes. In our work to examine cardiovascular benefits of PA in a mouse model of post-traumatic stress, we stumbled upon the reciprocal relationship between PA and stress exposure, wherein stress significantly reduced healthy levels of routine PA. Specifically, our previous study showed that nightly voluntary running (average 4.75 ± 1 km) essentially ceased to 0.31 km following the first day of a 5-day resident-intruder social stress, a model of human posttraumatic stress. The aim of the present study was to define the parameters of our paradigm as first steps for its future use in examining mechanisms that underlie stress-induced declines in PA. Five-week-old C57BL/6J male mice were divided into four groups (n=8/group): sedentary/control, voluntary running/control, sedentary/stress, and voluntary running/stress. Voluntary running groups were given 24-hour unlimited access to a running wheel in the home cage for 9 weeks. Mice were then exposed to a single 6-hour bout of resident-intruder social stress. We found that plasma corticosterone significantly increased (16.66 ± 4 ng/ml basal to 496 ± 155 ng/ml immediately post stress), while nightly running dropped significantly from an average nightly distance of 5.58 ± 1.7 km to 1.22 ± 1.1 km during the night following stress. Voluntary running returned to near normal levels (4.35 ± 1.7 km) by the third night post-stress. Food intake was moderately increased in the first 2 nights post-stress, but also returned to normal by the third night. These studies show the sensitivity of habitual running behavior to stress exposure and suggest the utility of this mouse model in exploring the means by which stress negatively impacts routine PA.


This research was conducted as part of a Linfield College Student-Faculty Collaborative Research Grant in 2017, funded by the Office of Academic Affairs.

The student collaborator was Courtney Stroh.

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