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Voluntary running activity

A sensitive parameter featuring non-invasive, continuous, and convenient measurement.

Since the late 19th century countless studies were conducted involving voluntary wheel running in wild, laboratory and domestic species. Especially rodents showed a high running motivation. As an example, 20 – 80 thousand wheel revolutions per individual were recorded daily on average.

In lab animal science voluntary wheel running is used as cage enrichment as well as an interesting parameter to analyze. Besides recording of total running performance, other parameters like Vmax, light/dark ratio of running activity and inactivity during dark phase may provide valuable information about health and well being. Thus, voluntary wheel running is an ideal parameter to be used in pharmacology studies. Direct drug action, induced disease models and tolerability are investigated by means of running wheels. Between species and even among different strains there are significant differences in their suitability for wheel running studies.

Direct drug action

Voluntary wheel running activity in mice is negatively influenced by a muscle relaxant. The maximum effect is observed in the second half of the first night after application followed by recovery.

Induced models

Running activity is influenced by tumor growth. The test compound (red line) attenuates the drop in running activity, visible in the vehicle group (blue line) to a small extent only in comparison to the reference compound (green line) were no drop occurs. Here voluntary wheel running serves as an indicator of quality of life involving tumor burden and drug toxicity.

  • Running activity

    Running activity

  • Influence of doxorubicin treatment

    Influence of doxorubicin treatment


Voluntary running activity of mice is influenced by application of a drug depending on dose.

Different strains and sex of mice show differences in total running activity as well as Vmax, relation of running during dark and light phase and inactivity during dark phase indicating different suitability for wheel running studies.