DENVER, CO -- (Marketwire) -- 03/20/13 -- Professionals specializing in the treatment of men, women and children with eating disorders are observing a growing trend among their patients, who are increasingly engaging in compulsive exercise. According to Eating Recovery Center, an international center providing comprehensive treatment for eating disorders, the connection between excessive exercise and eating disorders generally stems from food-, body- or weight-related issues that drive the excessive physical activity. In fact, a study by Brewerton found that nearly 40 percent of patients with Anorexia Nervosa engaged in compulsive exercise behaviors.
"Compulsive exercise is obligatory in nature, and it doesn't have to be a certain type of exercise or be performed for a minimum duration," explains Jennifer Lombardi, MFT, executive director of Summit Eating Disorders and Outreach Program, a partner program of Eating Recovery Center. "When evaluating if exercise is compulsive in nature, it's important to look at the intention behind the movement, if there is a sense of urgency or agitation when individuals can't engage in the exercise behavior, there is likely an issue. It's also important to consider exercise in the larger context of an individual's eating and body image history; exercise is one of those behaviors that means something different to people struggling with eating disorders due to their temperament and brain chemistry."
Lombardi and the eating disorders experts at Eating Recovery Center explain that individuals engaging in compulsive exercise generally fall into one of two categories: those exhibiting significant exercise compulsion as part of their eating disorder; or individuals that did not initially exhibit excessive exercise behaviors, but began to do so as their eating disorders improved.
In other words, some eating disordered individuals abuse exercise as a compensatory behavior following a bingeing session or to give themselves "permission" to eat. Others may begin to engage in excessive exercise as what they believe to be a "healthy" part of eating disorders recovery. What these individuals do not realize, is that the frequency and volume of their exercise has taken the place of other eating disordered behaviors as an anxiety management tool and poses significant health complications, including joint injuries, stress fractures, muscle tears, tendonitis, fatigue and dehydration.
Eating Recovery Center encourages families, friends and healthcare professionals to be mindful of five common warning signs of compulsive exercise behaviors, including:
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