Influence of estrogen on individual exercise motivation and bone protection in ovariectomized rats


  • S.T. Müller
  • A.M. Keiler
  • K. Kräker
  • O. Zierau
  • R. Bernhardt


  • Laboratory Animals


  • Lab Anim 52 (5): 479-489


  • Bone protection and metabolism are directly linked to estrogen levels, but exercise is also considered to have bone protective effects. Reduced estrogen levels lead to a variety of disorders, for example, bone loss and reduced movement drive. The objective of this study was to investigate the effects of estrogen on individual voluntary exercise motivation and bone protection. We investigated sham operated, ovariectomized, and ovariectomized with estrogen supplemented Wistar rats (20 weeks old) either with or without access to exercise wheels. We selected an experimental approach where we could monitor the individual exercise of group-housed rats with ad libitum access to a running wheel with the help of a subcutaneous chip. In vivo and ex vivo microcomputed tomography analyses of the tibia were performed at two-week intervals from week 0 to week 6. Furthermore, tibial trabecular structure was evaluated based on histomorphometric analyses. We observed a significant bone protective effect of E2. For exercise performance, a substantially high intra-group variability was observed, especially in the E2 group. We presume that dominant behavior occurs within the group-housed rats resulting in a hierarchical access to the running wheel and a high variability of distance run. Exercise did not prevent ovariectomy-induced bone loss. However, lack of estrogen within the ovariectomized rats led to a drastically reduced activity prevented by estrogen supplementation. Our findings are important for future studies working with group-housed rats and exercise. The reason for the high intra-group variability in exercise needs to be investigated in future studies.