Exercising during AN recovery – good or bad? Research call for survivors to share experience

Exercising during AN recovery – good or bad? Research call for survivors to share experience

I have enjoyed being active all my life - except for the period when the AN bully ruled my mind and made me exercise to avoid feeling guilty. So what role can exercise play in recovery? If you enjoy it, should it be allowed? Here is your chance to have a say and influence research.

Exercise – I’ve always loved it – except  when the AN bully took over and made it a compulsion – do it or else. So what role can exercise play in recovery? If you enjoy it, should it be allowed? Here is your chance to have a say and influence research.

Exercise is a feel-good activity for many people who suffer anorexia nervosa. I know – as a survivor, now in my seventh blissful year of recovery, I continue to enjoy exercise – these days usually in the form of walking, pulling weeds and planting seedlings in the vegetable garden, or playing at the park with the grand children.Of course, exercise is not always good and too much of it can be downright dangerous – especially when the eating disorder (‘Ed’) revs up its bully gears and compels and drives us to exercise way beyond the limits that are healthy and enjoyable. I know what that is like. Horrid. Absolutely. Outside intervention by our treatment team is often the only way to bring it to a halt.

The power of the illness is such, however,  that children and adults alike 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? Last year some of you generously responded to a call for participants in a new study at the University of Sydney.  This study addresses a scarcity of research in regards to targeted treatment interventions and the ways in which patients manage their exercise feelings and behaviours throughout the recovery process.

Researcher Sarah Young provides this followup: I received a great response from your site, including some participants from the States and Switzerland! I have interviewed a number of people who are in treatment for Anorexia, but need more people who have already recovered from anorexia to complete my study.

By participating in this research project exploring the role of exercise in recovery of anorexia you will be helping the researchers help you and others. 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 this stage of recovery. What was your experience like? What support or arrangements would have helped? Did you feel understood? What would you like your treatment team to know?

It could be posited that during recovery, 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 being an important factor in 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 who have recovered from anorexia. So, the aim of this research is to investigate the role of exercise in the recovery stage of Anorexia Nervosa, and the personal perspectives of people who have recovered from anorexia are integral to this.

The project is investigating how patients who have recovered from anorexia have re-established healthy exercise into their lives, and if this was a critical aspect of your recovery process.

What is the study about?

The study concerns the personal stories of women and men who have recovered from anorexia. 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 that may benefit the treatment and recovery process of anorexia.

Who is carrying out the study?

The study is being conducted by Sarah Young, syou5950@uni.sydney.edu.au, under the supervision of Dr Paul Rhodes and Professor Stephen Touyz from the University of Sydney, and Professor Phillipa Hay from the University of Western 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. 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. Interviews can be completed in person if living in Sydney, Australia. Interviews can be completed over Skype if living interstate within Australia or internationally.

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

Email researcher, Sarah Young: syou5950@uni.sydney.edu.au or Phone:  (+61) 0438 091 247. If you know other people who have recovered from anorexia, tell them about the study as they might like to participate too.

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