Vagal nerve regulation is essential for the increase in gastric motility in response to mild exercise

Tohoku J Exp Med. 2010 Oct;222(2):155-63. doi: 10.1620/tjem.222.155.


It has been shown that mild to moderate exercise can accelerate gastric emptying in humans. However, understanding of the underlying mechanism is hampered by the lack of appropriate animal models. To investigate the effects of mild exercise on gastric motility, we developed an animal model, in which strain gauge transducers were surgically planted on the antral surfaces of female Sprague-Dawley rats. We continuously recorded the contractions of gastric circular muscle in unrestrained conscious rats, divided into four groups: sham-operated exercise, sham-operated sedentary, vagotomized exercise, and vagotomized sedentary. The rats were trained for 3 weeks, and gastric motility was monitored before and after exercise. Although exercise accelerates gastric antral contraction in sham-operated rats, this effect was absent in the vagotomized exercise group, indicating the involvement of the vagal nerve in the exercise-mediated increase in gastric motility. Among the four groups, daily food intake was highest in the sham-operated exercise group. In contrast, the vagotomized exercise group exhibited the smallest body weight gain. Severe gastric retention was observed in vagotomized rats, suggesting a role of the vagal nerve in facilitating food movement and digestion in the stomach. Moreover, at the end of the 3-week exercise, there were no differences in plasma levels of growth hormone, peptid YY, and ghrelin among the four groups. These results indicate that in response to a mild physical exercise challenge, the vagal nerve stimulates gastric motility and enhances the ability of the stomach to process food. Our findings highlight the significance of neuronal control of stomach function.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Gastric Emptying
  • Gastric Mucosa / metabolism
  • Gastrointestinal Motility*
  • Ghrelin / metabolism
  • Physical Conditioning, Animal*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Stomach / innervation*
  • Stomach / pathology
  • Time Factors
  • Vagus Nerve / physiology*


  • Ghrelin