Researchers say that exercise might be useful in preventing eating disorders or even as a means of intervention. This is interesting for many reasons, one being that exercise itself can often be a disorder if abused.
“When it comes to eating disorders, exercise has always been seen as a negative because people use it as a way to control their weight,” says Heather Hausenblas, an exercise psychologist at the University of Florida. “But for most people, exercise is a very positive thing.”
While it may not be the remedy for everyone with an eating disorder, and in fact, many might use it as a way of keeping their weight at an unhealthy level, Hausenblas says that it can be used as a way to overcome their disease.
Not all people with eating disorders will be in a position to be recommended an exercise routine.
“If a patient is extremely underweight, you’re not going to have them exercising two or three hours a day. But once they’re at a stable level, exercise could have a big positive effect,” says Hausenblas.
Hausenblas says she hopes this can lead to an additional study that would follow people over several months who are at risk of developing an eating disorder. The goal would be to see if exercise impacts their symptoms.
“We’d like to assess them over time, and we hope to see their risk factors go down.”