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Excessive exercise common among women with eating disorders

Excessive exercise is one of the warning signs of an eating disorder, according to a study conducted at the United States.//

This problem may be common specifically among anorexic women who vomit or use laxatives for weight loss, said the researchers at the University of North Carolina. The study says that these women are at risk of extremely low weight, which could be dangerous and may have fatal consequences. Targeting the anxiety and obsessive tendencies is the right way to treat eating disorder.

In spite of knowing that excessive exercise is a characteristic feature of eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia, the doctors are still not clear about which women are likely to be affected by this disorder.

Data from three international studies of women with anorexia, bulimia or both was analysed by Dr. Cynthia M. Bulik and a team of researchers from Chapel Hill. Typical questions on eating disorder symptoms, personality traits and exercise habits were posed on these women under study.

Excessive exercise was defined as working out for more than 3 hours in a day or being obsessive about regular physical activity to such an extent that it interfered with other aspects of life, like exercising even when injured or ill. According to the study, excessive exercise was most common among anorexic women who purged, though excessive exercise was common regardless of the type of eating disorder. Excessive exercise was reported in more than 50% of the 336 women who purged.

Exercising to an extreme extent was also seen among women exhibiting high degree of anxiety, obsessiveness and perfectionism. These characteristics are typical of anorexics who purge to lose weight.

Bulik said, “It makes sense that such women will be particularly likely to use all available methods in their drive for thinness and control.” These findings could aid in treatment, according to her.

Bulik said "Clinically, we know that when we send people back home and they have a strong drive to exercise that it can negatively impact on their ability to maintain the weight that they worked so hard to gain in hospital."

According to her, excessive exercise is a warning sign that "requires more vigilance and understanding," so that patients can be educated on how to include healthy exercise levels in their lives, without losing any gains made in controlling the eating disorder.

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