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Exercise Addiction More Likely in Those With Eating Disorder Traits

Exercise addiction is nearly four times more common among people who show traits of an eating disorder, according to a new study published in the journal Eating and Weight Disorders.

“It is known that those with eating disorders are more likely to display addictive personality and obsessive-compulsive behaviours,” said study leader Mike Trott, a Ph.D. researcher in Sport Science at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) in the U.K.

“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.”

Worldwide, an estimated 70 million people struggle with an eating disorder, such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia or binge eating disorder. Although eating disorders can affect anyone, they are most often reported among females and adolescents.

The new study is the first to measure rates of exercise addiction in groups of people with and without the traits of an eating disorder. The meta-analysis used data from 2,140 participants across nine different studies, including from the U.K., the U.S., Australia and Italy.

The results show that people displaying characteristics of an eating disorder are 3.7 times more likely to struggle with an addiction to exercise compared to those with no indication of an eating disorder.

“It is not uncommon to want to improve our lifestyles by eating healthier and doing more exercise, particularly at the start of the year. However, it is important to moderate this behavior and not fall victim to ‘crash diets’ or anything that eliminates certain foods entirely, as these can easily lead to eating disorders,” said Trott.

“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.”

Source: Anglia Ruskin University

Exercise Addiction More Likely in Those With Eating Disorder Traits

Traci Pedersen

Traci Pedersen is a professional writer with over a decade of experience. Her work consists of writing for both print and online publishers in a variety of genres including science chapter books, college and career articles, and elementary school curriculum.

APA Reference
Pedersen, T. (2020). Exercise Addiction More Likely in Those With Eating Disorder Traits. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 28, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 29 Jan 2020 (Originally: 29 Jan 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 29 Jan 2020
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