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Keywords:

  • social stress;
  • caloric intake;
  • physical exercise;
  • insulin;
  • corticosterone

Epidemiological studies have demonstrated that stress-related disorders, such as the increase on the caloric intake, are twice as common in women as in men, but surprisingly, very few studies have been tested this subject on female experimental animals. Additionally, it has been proposed that regular physical exercise can improve the deleterious effects of stress. Therefore, the present longitudinal study, performed in female rats, aimed to test the influence of chronic stress (ST) imposed by social isolation on the animals’ caloric intake and to assess the effect of regular physical exercise of low intensity on this behaviour. In 4 groups of Wistars rats (control sedentary, n = 6; control exercised, n = 6; ST sedentary, n = 6; ST exercised, n = 6), body weight, food intake, abdominal fat weight, adrenal weight, corticosterone metabolites in faeces and plasma insulin levels were measured during the experimental protocol and/or at its end. The results showed that social isolation was not able to modify the amount of abdominal fat and the body weight; however, it promoted significant increases in the corticosterone metabolites and in the amount of caloric intake, which were attenuated in exercised rats. Additionally, exercised groups presented lower levels of fasting insulin than sedentary groups. Therefore, the present study demonstrated that regular physical exercise of low intensity attenuates the corticosterone metabolites and overeating behaviour triggered by social stress. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.