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UPDATE: Is Exercise Harmful During Treatment for Bulimia Nervosa?

Reprinted from Eating Disorders Review
March/April 2006 Volume 17, Number 2
©2006 Gürze Books

It is still debatable whether patients with bulimia nervosa (BN) should be allowed to exercise during intensive treatment. One theory holds that these patients should not exercise because they cannot separate exercise from weight and shape concerns, and thus exercise will only perpetuate the binge-purge cycle. Others believe that moderate exercise may not interfere with treatment and may even be helpful in the recovery process. Traci McFarlane, PhD, and colleagues at Toronto General Hospital and the University of Toronto recently reported the results of their study of a series of BN patients admitted to the day hospital program at Toronto General Hospital. Preliminary results showed no differences in frequency of binge eating at the end of treatment according to exercise status. However, patients who exercised while in the day hospital engaged in significantly more vomiting than those who did not exercise. These results suggest that engaging in any exercise while in intensive treatment for BN may signal a stronger attachment to the illness and to weight and shape control. The authors also believe this suggests that BN patients should be encouraged to abstain from exercise until their symptoms are under control.


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