Hyperactivity in anorexia nervosa: warming up not just burning-off calories

PLoS One. 2012;7(7):e41851. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0041851. Epub 2012 Jul 27.


Excessive physical activity is a common feature in Anorexia Nervosa (AN) that interferes with the recovery process. Animal models have demonstrated that ambient temperature modulates physical activity in semi-starved animals. The aim of the present study was to assess the effect of ambient temperature on physical activity in AN patients in the acute phase of the illness. Thirty-seven patients with AN wore an accelerometer to measure physical activity within the first week of contacting a specialized eating disorder center. Standardized measures of anxiety, depression and eating disorder psychopathology were assessed. Corresponding daily values for ambient temperature were obtained from local meteorological stations. Ambient temperature was negatively correlated with physical activity (p = -.405) and was the only variable that accounted for a significant portion of the variance in physical activity (p = .034). Consistent with recent research with an analogous animal model of the disorder, our findings suggest that ambient temperature is a critical factor contributing to the expression of excessive physical activity levels in AN. Keeping patients warm may prove to be a beneficial treatment option for this symptom.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anorexia Nervosa / complications*
  • Anorexia Nervosa / metabolism
  • Anorexia Nervosa / physiopathology*
  • Anorexia Nervosa / psychology
  • Anxiety / complications
  • Body Temperature Regulation*
  • Child
  • Depression / complications
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperkinesis / etiology*
  • Hyperkinesis / metabolism
  • Hyperkinesis / physiopathology*
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Temperature*

Grant support

This project was funded by the Netherlands Organization of Health Research and Development (ZONMW #945-05-017). Financial assistance was provided by Unidad Venres Clinicos (O.C.). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.