Exercise addiction could be more prevalent among people with eating disorders

A new study published in the peer-reviewed journal Eating and Weight Disorders found that exercise addiction could be more prevalent among individuals suffering from an eating disorder.

“Exercise addiction is associated with multiple adverse outcomes and can be classified as co-occurring with an eating disorder, or a primary condition with no indication of eating disorders,” researchers stated. “We conducted a meta-analysis exploring the prevalence of exercise addiction in adults with and without indicated eating disorders.”

In their new study, researchers initiated a thorough examination of data from more than 2,000 participants across several different studies based in the U.S., United Kingdom, Italy, and Australia.

“Studies reporting prevalence of exercise addiction with and without indicated eating disorders in adults were identified. A random effect meta-analysis was undertaken, calculating odds ratios for exercise addiction with versus without indicated eating disorders,” the study reads.

From what researchers gathered at the conclusion of the study, was a determination that participants with traits closely associated with an eating disorder were at a higher risk, almost four times as likely, of exhibiting an addiction to exercise compared to people with no such traits.

“Exercise addiction occurs more than three and a half times as often as a comorbidity to an eating disorder than in people without an indicated eating disorder,” researchers declared. “The creation of a measurement tool able to identify exercise addiction risk in both populations would benefit researchers and practitioners by easily classifying samples.”

Mike Trott, the study’s lead researcher, stated: “It is known that those with eating disorders are more likely to display addictive personality and obsessive-compulsive behaviours. We are also aware that having an unhealthy relationship with food often means an increased amount of exercising, but this is the first time that a risk factor has been calculated.”

“Our study shows that displaying signs of an eating disorder significantly increases the chance of an unhealthy relationship with exercise, and this can have negative consequences, including mental health issues and injury.”

“Health professionals working with people with eating disorders should consider monitoring exercise levels as a priority, as this group have been shown to suffer from serious medical conditions as a result of excessive exercise, such as fractures, increased rates of cardiovascular disease in younger patients, and increased overall mortality,” Trott concluded.

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