Voluntary exercise can strengthen the circadian system in aged miceReport as inadecuate

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, Volume 35, Issue 6, pp 2137–2152

First Online: 23 January 2013Received: 02 July 2012Accepted: 05 December 2012


Consistent daily rhythms are important to healthy aging according to studies linking disrupted circadian rhythms with negative health impacts. We studied the effects of age and exercise on baseline circadian rhythms and on the circadian system-s ability to respond to the perturbation induced by an 8 h advance of the light:dark LD cycle as a test of the system-s robustness. Mice male, mPer2-C57BL-6 were studied at one of two ages: 3.5 months n = 39 and >18 months n = 72. We examined activity records of these mice under entrained and shifted conditions as well as mPER2::LUC measures ex vivo to assess circadian function in the suprachiasmatic nuclei SCN and important target organs. Age was associated with reduced running wheel use, fragmentation of activity, and slowed resetting in both behavioral and molecular measures. Furthermore, we observed that for aged mice, the presence of a running wheel altered the amplitude of the spontaneous firing rate rhythm in the SCN in vitro. Following a shift of the LD cycle, both young and aged mice showed a change in rhythmicity properties of the mPER2::LUC oscillation of the SCN in vitro, and aged mice exhibited longer lasting internal desynchrony. Access to a running wheel alleviated some age-related changes in the circadian system. In an additional experiment, we replicated the effect of the running wheel, comparing behavioral and in vitro results from aged mice housed with or without a running wheel >21 months, n = 8 per group, all examined 4 days after the shift. The impact of voluntary exercise on circadian rhythm properties in an aged animal is a novel finding and has implications for the health of older people living with environmentally induced circadian disruption.

KeywordsCircadian Exercise Wheel Suprachiasmatic nucleus Thymus Esophagus Spleen Electronic supplementary materialThe online version of this article doi:10.1007-s11357-012-9502-y contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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Author: T. L. Leise - M. E. Harrington - P. C. Molyneux - I. Song - H. Queenan - E. Zimmerman - G. S. Lall - S. M. Biello

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