New Australian research to study eating disorders in the fitness industry

4 Aug, 2021

InsideOut Institute for Eating Disorders and the University of Sydney, supported by Fitness Australia, has today launched new research into fitness professionals and the detection of eating disorders among their clients, to ensure those most at risk are getting the help they need, earlier.

Around 1 million Australians are currently living with an eating disorder . But only one in four are seeking treatment.

InsideOut Director and Clinical Psychologist Dr Sarah Maguire from the University of Sydney says exercise promotes health for most people, but it can be a harmful pursuit for those living with an eating disorder.

“Many people living with eating disorders engage in excessive exercise, typically to try and control weight and shape and mood. Research suggests that, among those with anorexia nervosa, up to 81% of adults exercise excessively during acute phases of the illness.”

“Excessive exercise can place individuals with eating disorders at risk, physically and psychologically.”

“When exercise takes on an addictive quality, individuals may experience intense guilt, negative emotionality or anxiety when exercise is missed or postponed.”

Dr Sarah Maguire says fitness professionals - such as personal trainers and gym instructors - can play an important role when it comes the early detection of eating disorders.

The highest users of gyms and fitness activities are also those most at risk of developing an eating disorder - women aged 18-34.

“We know that the highest users of gyms and fitness activities are also those most at risk of developing an eating disorder - women aged 18-34

“Fitness professionals are really on the frontline when it comes to this illness, because they’re seeing clients that may have an eating disorder or are at risk of developing one.

“We need to make sure fitness professionals are equipped with the knowledge and skills to identify and manage clients with eating disorders and refer them for treatment, it can be an overwhelming experience for them to be the only one managing a situation like this one, and this new research will help us do that.”

“The results will also assist in our understanding of the awareness and effectiveness of industry guidelines in identifying and supporting clients with eating disorders.”

Fitness Australia CEO Barrie Elvish says fitness professionals and businesses have an essential role to play when it comes to eating disorders.

“Exercise professionals can play a vital role in recovery, by working collaboratively with a treatment team.”

“As the peak industry association, Fitness Australia is committed to being part of the solution for people with eating disorders, which means ensuring our registered and accredited exercise professionals have access to the best available training.”

“That’s why we’re supporting InsideOut’s research in this area and encouraging fitness professionals to anonymously share their experience and understanding of eating disorders, by way of InsideOut’s online survey.”

Photo by Bruno Nascimento on Unsplash