Abstract Exposure of proestrous Syrian hamsters to a new room, cage, and novel running wheel blocks the luteinizing hormone (LH) surge until the next day in ~75% of hamsters . The studies described here tested the hypotheses that 1) exercise and/or 2) orexinergic neurotransmission mediate novel wheel blockade of the LH surge and circadian phase advances. Female hamsters were exposed to a 14L:10D photoperiod and activity rhythms were monitored with infra-red detectors. In Expt. 1, to test the effect of exercise, hamsters received jugular cannulae and on the next day, proestrus (Day 1), shortly before zeitgeber time 5 (ZT 5, 7h before lights-off) the hamsters were transported to the laboratory. After obtaining a blood sample at ZT 5, the hamsters were transferred to a new cage with a novel wheel that was either freely rotating (unlocked), or locked until ZT 9, and exposed to constant darkness (DD). Blood samples were collected hourly for 2days from ZT 5–11 under red light for determination of plasma LH levels by radioimmunoassay. Running rhythms were monitored continuously for the next 10–14days. The locked wheels were as effective as unlocked wheels in blocking LH surges (no Day 1 LH surge in 6/9 versus 8/8 hamsters, P>0.05) and phase advances in the activity rhythms did not differ between the groups (P=0.28), suggesting that intense exercise is not essential for novel wheel blockade and phase advance of the proestrous LH surge. Expt. 2 tested whether orexin neurotransmission is essential for these effects. Hamsters were treated the same as those in Expt. 1 except that they were injected (i.p.) at ZT 4.5 and 5 with either the orexin 1 receptor antagonist SB334867 (15mg/kg per injection) or vehicle (25% DMSO in 2-hydroxypropyl-beta-cyclodextrin (HCD)). SB-334867 inhibited novel wheel blockade of the LH surge (surges blocked in 2/6 SB334867-injected animals versus 16/18 vehicle-injected animals, P<0.02) and also inhibited wheel running and circadian phase shifts, indicating that activation of orexin 1 receptors is necessary for these effects. Expt. 3 tested the hypothesis that novel wheel exposure activates orexin neurons. Proestrous hamsters were transferred at ZT 5 to a nearby room within the animal facility and were exposed to a new cage with a locked or unlocked novel wheel or left in their home cages. At ZT 8, the hamsters were anesthetized, blood was withdrawn, they were perfused with fixative and brains were removed for immunohistochemical localization of Fos, GnRH, and orexin. Exposure to a wheel, whether locked or unlocked, suppressed circulating LH concentrations at ZT 8, decreased the proportion of Fos-activated GnRH neurons, and increased Fos-immunoreactive orexin cells. Unlocked wheels had greater effects than locked wheels on all three endpoints. Thus in a familiar environment, exercise potentiated the effect of the novel wheel on Fos expression because a locked wheel was not a sufficient stimulus to block the LH surge. In conclusion, these studies indicate that novel wheel exposure activates orexin neurons and that blockade of orexin 1 receptors prevents novel wheel blockade of the LH surge. These findings are consistent with a role for both exercise and arousal in mediating novel wheel blockade of the LH surge.