Running for their lives
As MANY as 80% of people who have anorexia nervosa are also compulsive exercisers, and traditional treatment approaches view exercise as something that inhibits weight gain, so tend to either cut it out completely, or restrict it to only ‘gentle’ forms such as yoga.
But University of Western Sydney Professor of mental health Phillipa Hay believes this tactic deprives patients of many of the benefits of exercise, particularly its ability to help regulate mood and reduce anxiety.
While many people with eating disorders do use exercise to control their shape and weight, they also use it to feel better and manage their mood.
Professor Hay is currently recruiting 100 patients with anorexia for a randomised control trial that will test what happens when they are taught to reconfigure their ideas about exercise, rather than omit it completely.
The cognitive behaviour therapy-based approach aims to teach people with eating disorders