To exercise or not – new study on anorexia

To exercise or not – new study on anorexia

Many people – children and adults both – bemoan the severe restrictions placed on exercise by their treatment teams during the early stages of recovery from anorexia.

Does being confined to bed help? A new study at the University of Sydney is addressing a scarcity of research in regards to targeted treatment interventions and the ways in which patients manage their exercise feelings and behaviours throughout treatment and recovery.

Here’s your chance to help the researchers help you and others: you are invited to participate in a research project exploring the role of exercise in the treatment and recovery of anorexia. You don’t need to live in Australia to contribute to this study – participants are welcome from the world over.

Some research has indicated that eliminating exercise completely while in hospital is not therapeutic, and that specific exercise interventions during treatment can actually be beneficial for improving long-term psychological outcomes (Hausenblas, Cook & Chittester, 2008).

Furthermore, through the process of recovery, with reduced support and eventual cessation of psychological services, people recovering from anorexia must gradually learn to independently manage their eating and exercise cognitions, feelings and behaviours. The researchers need your insights on what this stage of recovery is like.

It could be posited that during these two stages, people with anorexia may experience significant positive changes in the function of exercise in their life, and the type of relationship/s they have with exercise. The process of adjustment to a new phase of life (process of recovery), and increased understanding of the psychological and physical benefits of healthy exercise, could result in exercise serving as an important factor in their recovery from AN. Furthermore, there may be a particular subgroup of patients for whom exercise was a part of their identity prior to anorexia, and exercise may be an integral part of their recovery process, which could have implications for therapeutic interventions in the future.

No study has focused specifically on the role of exercise from the perspective of patients currently undergoing treatment, in comparison with patients who have already recovered from anorexia. So, the aim of the current research is to investigate the role of exercise in the treatment and recovery stages of Anorexia Nervosa. The project will utilise the personal perspectives of people from two groups: those currently undergoing treatment for anorexia, and those who have recovered from anorexia.

The aims of the project are to determine how patients with anorexia manage their compulsive exercise attitudes and behaviours during treatment, their expectations for recovery and also their predictions of whether their relationship with exercise will or will not change in recovery. The research will also seek to understand how patients who have recovered from anorexia have re-established healthy exercise into their lives, and if this was a critical aspect of their recovery process.

What is the study about?

The study concerns the personal stories of women and men who are currently receiving treatment for anorexia and those who have recovered from anorexia. Researchers are interested in how people who are in treatment view their exercise attitudes, beliefs and behaviours as a part of their anorexia, and how they perceive that their relationship with exercise will or will not change throughout the recovery process. For those who have recovered, this research will examine your exercise history and current relationship with exercise, now that you have recovered. The aim of the study is to identify factors/aspects of exercise which may be of benefit in the treatment and recovery process.

Who is carrying out the study?

The study is being conducted by Sarah Young,, under the supervision of Dr Paul Rhodes, Senior Lecturer in psychology at the University of Sydney.

What does the study involve?

You will be asked to:

Complete a brief (about 45 minutes) preliminary telephone/in-person interview to assess eating disorder symptoms. This will involve a standardised interview instrument used widely in the treatment of eating disorders, and will be undertaken with the researcher Sarah Young.

Complete a semi-structured interview (about 1 hour) with the researcher. In this interview, you will be encouraged to share your story of your illness, with a particular focus on your exercise attitudes, beliefs and behaviours, prior to treatment/s, during treatment/s and after treatment/s (if applicable). The interviewer will also ask questions about how you perceive the process of recovery from anorexia.

Complete a short (5 mins) self-report questionnaire about factors maintaining exercise behaviour.

Provide details of your current height and weight.

            How much time will the study take?
The total estimated time to participate in the study is 2 hours.

How do I find out more information and enrol in this study?

Email researcher, Sarah Young:

Phone:  (+61) 0438 091 247. If you know other people who currently have anorexia nervosa, or have recovered from anorexia,  tell them about the study as they might like to participate, too.

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