A study into the effect of exercise on appetite in older adults

Increasing physical activity in older adults has been shown to have many benefits, including benefits to heart health, musculoskeletal health and mental health! We are interested in looking at yet another way in which becoming more physical active can help older people….

In the UK a significant proportion of older adults - aged 65 and over - do not meet the energy intake requirements recommended by the government. This is likely to be due to a loss of appetite during aging. Older adults have also been found to have a decreased rate of gastric emptying – this means that their stomach empties food more slowly than younger adults. As food is held within the stomach for longer, a feeling of ‘fullness’ persists and feelings of hunger after meals are delayed. This delay in stomach emptying may drive a loss of appetite and consequently inadequate energy intake. Insufficient intake can have many consequences, including nutrient deficiencies and compromised immunity, putting individuals at greater risk of illness.

Some studies in younger and older adults have shown that being more physically active may help improve sensitivity to feelings of hunger and fullness, and also increase the rate at which the stomach empties. We want to see in our study if asking older adults to become more physically active will affect their appetite, food intake and the rate at which their stomach empties.

Our study involves 3 main visits:

  • At the first visit, which will last between 1 and 2 hours, participants will be given devices to wear which will track their activity levels and pedometers which will tell them the number of steps they are taking. They will be asked to record the food they eat for 3 days and the number of steps they take for a week.
  • At the second visit, which will take place at least 1 week later and last between 4 and 5 hours, participants will be asked to eat a test meal and the rate at which their stomach empties will be measured – this will require some gentle breathing into a glass tube to obtain breath samples over 3 hours. They will also be asked to rate how hungry they feel and how much of an appetite they have before and after the meal. Participants will then be asked to increase their activity by walking an additional 2500 steps each day in a twenty to thirty-minute period for 4 weeks. Participants will continue recording their steps and will record the food they eat for 3 days again in the fourth week.
  • After 4 weeks, at the third and final visit, the rate their stomach empties will be measured again after a test meal and they will be asked again to rate their feelings of hunger and appetite. This visit will again last between 4 and 5 hours.

There are a few criteria that volunteers must meet to partake in the study. These include being a non-smoker aged 65 or over, with the ability to walk unassisted and safely participate in moderate-intensity exercise (for those over 69 we ask that you double check this with your doctor).

If you would like to get involved, know someone who would or would like further information, please contact Hannah Brennan (16037034@brookes.ac.uk) or Jessica Cooper (16036776@brookes.ac.uk). Hannah and Jessica are completing this study as part of an MSc in Applied Human Nutrition at Oxford Brookes University. Alternatively, you may wish to contact the project supervisor, Dr Miriam Clegg on mclegg@brookes.ac.uk.


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