Diet And Physical Activity In Older Women


Original Editor - Lucinda hampton

Top Contributors - Lucinda hampton  

Introduction[edit | edit source]

A balance whole food diet

Physical activity and nutrition are vital for retaining good health and staving off development of non-communicable diseases. As both physical activity and nutrition are connected directly to the risk of chronic disease, we should comprehend how these modifiable factors relate to health status. Women have distinct nutritional needs based on physiological and hormonal changes at several times during their life (e.g., menstruation, pregnancy, breastfeeding, menopause). Gender medicine needs an increase in studies dedicated to older women with a view to bringing more quality of life into a longer life.

Older age is associated with many physiological changes making undernutrition a large risk eg reduced bone and muscle mass (sarcopenia), increased frailty, reduced cognitive function and dependence on others ability to care for them. How our diet affects us as we age is poorly understood, but evidence points to the probable effects of a wide range of dietary factors with the ability to offset molecular damage (e.g., inflammation, oxidative stress and endothelial dysfunction) and mitigate associated functional changes that aging induces.[1]

Salient Points[edit | edit source]


  • The timing of nutrient consumption appears to influence the metabolism in women. A huge percentage (95%) nutrient timing recommendations spring from studies conducted in men. We know now that timing of nutrient consumption during exercise directly affects performance, fatigue recovery, fat oxidation and energy expenditure. Research shows, women frequently exercise on an empty stomach, hoping to “burn fat” but it appears that women particularly this reduces fat oxidation. A better option is to , exercise on a full stomach as a higher total daily energy expenditure, increased fat oxidation and improved body composition is the likely outcome.
  • Evidence suggests that consuming a bolus of protein before exercise, not carbohydrates,, significantly increases energy expenditure and improves fat oxidation after aerobic exercise, high intensity interval training and resistance training. It seems the above approach ie pre-exercise nutrition is more better way for women to see improvements in strength and lean body mass, than post-exercise nutrition.

Insufficiency Fractures

  • Some foods and nutrients may play a part in preventing fractures. Recent research revealed that along side protein, tea and coffee seem to play a role in prevention of hip fractures in underweight women. For every extra cup of tea or coffee per day consumed a 4% lower risk of hip fracture was noted, whilst a 25 g/day increment of dietary protein intake was also associated with a 14% lower risk of hip fracture.
  • Vitamin D plays a role too in older womens health, with many peri- and postmenopausal women being either deficient in or have low levels of vitamin D and magnesium. Vitamin D is essential for bone health, as well as preventing muscle weakness, protecting against falls, and providing immune support.[1]

Quality Eating

  • Assessing the quality of the total diet appears to be a better approach to nutritional epidemiology, with early measures of diet quality focusing on malnutrition and nutrient deficiency diseases. Current assessments of diet quality, such as the Diet Quality Index and the Healthy Eating Index, look more at the issues of overnutrition and focus on dietary moderation, variety, and balance. Evidence suggests that in the US elderly women have the highest scores, reflecting high consumption of grains, vegetables, and fruits. Healthy Eating Index scores increased with age, education, and income, again showing that the quality of the diet is largely determined by social and environmental variables.[2]

Eating Disorders[edit | edit source]

Body weight dissatisfaction is connected to unhealthy dietary intakes in older age, as it is in all age groups for women. Accurate weight perception seems to decrease with age but health providers must be encourage them to improve their diets in an appropriate manner. This needs be done with tact to avoid triggering body weight unhappiness, and the same counterintuitive results on weight loss that occurs in eating disorders, as a sizeable proportion of middle-aged and older women have body weight dissatisfaction. This is highly relevant as unsupervised restrictive diets potentially have severe consequences, such as eliminating important dietary sources of vitamins and minerals or disordered eating.[3]

Cancer[edit | edit source]

The cancer burden globally among women is high in both HICs and LMICs, and it is expected to increase as populations age and as risk factors linked to urbanisation increase in prevalence.[4]

  • Strong evidence shows that physical activity performed at moderate to vigorous intensity protects against colon and breast cancer, and probably against cancer at all other sites.[5]
  • A healthy diet is associated with lower cancer mortality in women, even after adjusting for obesity and inflammation. An example of a healthy diet is a Mediterranean diet. In addition, diet may play a stronger role in reducing cancer mortality in women than physical activity[6].

Viewing[edit | edit source]

In this 18 minute video Dr. Volpe confronts our popular denial of growing older and older every day. She points out that it is never too late to start becoming an active and healthy individual – we just need to face that fact that exercise and eating habits are the best way of attaining that.


Physiotherapy[edit | edit source]

To see the relevance to our profession see a few of the many links below:

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Mattioli AV, Selleri V, Zanini G, Nasi M, Pinti M, Stefanelli C, Fedele F, Gallina S. Physical activity and diet in older women: a narrative review. Journal of Clinical Medicine. 2022 Dec 22;12(1):81.Available: (accessed 26.1.2024)
  2. Drewnowski A, Evans WJ. Nutrition, physical activity, and quality of life in older adults: summary. The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences. 2001 Oct 1;56(suppl_2):89-94.Available: (accessed 26.1.2024)
  3. Chatelan A, Carrard I. Diet quality in middle-aged and older women with and without body weight dissatisfaction: results from a population-based national nutrition survey in Switzerland. Journal of nutritional science. 2021;10:e38. Available: (accessed 26.1.2024)
  4. Torre LA, Islami F, Siegel RL, Ward EM, Jemal A. Global cancer in women: burden and trends. Cancer epidemiology, biomarkers & prevention. 2017 Apr 1;26(4):444-57.Available: (accessed 26.1.2024)
  5. Jurdana M. Physical activity and cancer risk. Actual knowledge and possible biological mechanisms. Radiology and oncology. 2021 Mar 1;55(1):7-17.Available: (accessed 26.1.2024)
  6. Chan JE, Caesar MA, Mann AK, Koh-Bell A, Richardson MT, Johnson CR, Kapp DS, Chan JK. The Role of Diet Compared to Physical Activity on Women's Cancer Mortality: Results From the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Frontiers in Public Health. 2022 Aug 1;10:853636.Available: (accessed 26.1.2024)
  7. TEDx Talks. Exercise and nutrition for middle-age and older individuals | Dr. Stella Volpe | TEDxSJU. Available from: [last accessed 26.1.2024]