Decreasing and increasing appetite through exercise

Exercise type influences the two hormones that control hunger differently.

Recently I overheard a conversation about exercise and appetite. It was mentioned that exercise is important for older adults because it can increase appetite. This comment swirled in my brain, I had always thought exercise did the exact opposite. Doesn’t working out suppress my appetite? Isn’t that part of the reason why I exercise regularly because I eat everything in sight?

According to research the theory behind exercise as an appetite suppressant or stimulant is based on the activities of two main hormones, ghrelin and peptide YY. They are hormones with opposing actions, each released during exercise. Ghrelin stimulates appetite while peptide YY decreases appetite. Ghrelin is sometimes referred to as the ‘hunger hormone’ because of this.

Appetite suppression is related to both the type of exercise that you’re doing and the length of time that you do it. High intensity exercise such as running, cycling or any activity that gets your heart pumping, decreases ghrelin and increases peptide YY. Suppressing your appetite. A leisurely stroll, however, will not have the same appetite suppression benefits and unfortunately the decrease experienced following high intensity exercise is short lived. Although, the higher the intensity, the longer this benefit will last.

When comparing aerobic activities (continuous activities lasting longer than 20 minutes) to anaerobic exercise (short bursts of exercise that are not continuous), anaerobic activity has an effect of decreasing ghrelin levels but has little effect on peptide YY. Aerobic activity has more of an impact on decreasing appetite due to the decrease of blood flow to the digestive system and the increase of blood flow to the working muscles. However, after exercise, your digestive system returns to pre-exercise function, the body cools, and the metabolic rate increases, along with appetite.

The holidays are upon us and most people are trying to keep the scale from tipping out of control throughout these fun filled days. Ghrelin and peptide YY hormones may be the last thing on our minds and they should be. One important thing to remember is that exercise provides more benefits than just appetite suppression. It adds value to many other areas of a person’s life no matter what intensity it is performed at. 

Michigan State University Extension has many resources and experts to offer ideas on different ways to include exercise into your daily routine.

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