The importance of a two-pronged approach to sarcopenia management through diet and exercise: contrasting perspectives of dietitians and exercise professionals towards the emerging role of the dietitian in prescribing exercise advice to older adults

  • Stacey Jones

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    This work presents a unique perspective on the concept of role merging within the health care setting. The research explores the views, opinions and attitudes of dietitians and exercise professionals on an emerging role of the dietitian prescribing exercise advice to older adults, for the prevention and treatment of sarcopenia.

    Following ethical approval, a qualitative methodology was employed to explore the perspectives from dietitians and exercise professionals. The research conducted in-depth interviews and focus groups using a purposive sample of participants from each profession. Data was analysed inductively using thematic analysis. Data was coded using latent and semantic coding, and then grouped into similar themes. A qualitative synthesis using meta-ethnography was conducted to compare and contrast the findings from the two professionals’ perspectives, and draw conclusions.

    An overall positive response from both professional groups acknowledged the need for a two-pronged approach combining nutrition and exercise interventions for sarcopenia management. Four overarching themes emerged from the data, 1) patient related benefits of a two-pronged approach 2) risk management, competencies and training requirements 3) differing levels of exercise intervention and 4) improved efficiency and effectiveness. Therefore, health care professionals must work together to achieve improved clinical outcomes and manage increased patient demand. Basic messages around increasing physical activity and reducing sedentary behaviour were deemed a duty of care for all professionals as part of the Making Every Contact Count initiative. However, prescribed exercise advice was perceived as higher risk for patients in the frail, older adult population. Bespoke training and competency standards for dietitians was recommended by participants before dietitians consider offering prescriptive exercise advice.

    With an ageing population there is a need to change the way practitioners manage patient care, as well as a call for dietitians to take on leadership roles in relation to the holistic prevention of disease. This study found positive affirmations from dietitians and exercise professionals on the dietitians extended role in exercise prescription in older adults for the prevention and treatment of sarcopenia. The findings suggest there may be benefits of role diversification in the management of sarcopenia. However, further research with diverse ranges of stakeholders including patients, dietetic managers, and clinical commissioners is required before practical recommendations can be made.
    Date of Award2022
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SupervisorMichael Duncan (Supervisor), Deborah Lycett (Supervisor) & Jane Goodfellow (Supervisor)

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