Guiding Principles to Inform Future Exercise Protocols for Eating Disorder Treatment
Keywords:Exercise guidelines, Eating disorders, FITT principle, Mental health, Exercise
Background: The management of exercise during the treatment of eating disorders (ED) has garnered much attention in the recent years. Despite interest in adopting exercise as a supplemental component to ED treatment, details are lacking regarding the specific components or guiding principles that should be considered when recommending exercise for individuals with EDs. Purpose: The purpose of this study was to identify ED-specific guidelines on the frequency, intensity, time (duration), and type (e.g., FITT principles). Methods: To gain insight regarding these details, semi-structured interviews were conducted with an international panel of ED experts (n = 13). Verbatim transcripts were analyzed with the support of NVivo 11.0. Themes were reflective of the FITT principle. Results: Specifically, frequency and duration should follow a graded protocol that aligns with each client’s unique mental and physical health needs. Intensity of exercise should move from light, to moderate, incorporating higher intensities cautiously, depending on a client’s treatment plan and fitness levels. All types of exercise modalities were encouraged; however, flexibility exercises were viewed as safest while resistance training was recognized as most important for regaining function and body composition. Hesitancy surrounded cardiovascular activity due to its tendency to be abused by individuals with ED. Conclusion: Therefore, participants advised that social activities precede the engagement of solitary cardiovascular activities. Together, these results provide important new and clinically relevant details regarding the potential inclusion of exercise in ED treatment.
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