Thursday, July 8, 2010

Exercise Prohibition in Eating Disorders Programs

Earlier this year it had been brought to my attention that there exists eating disorder (ED) programs which prohibit exercise. Presumably, this is to encourage weight gain and discourage over-exercising. However, the idea is absurd and archaic in my opinion. Regular monitoring puts stress on patients and staff, and diverts energy from healing.

As with food, exercise can not be avoided in daily life and a complete ED program would integrate healthy exercise as it does healthy eating.

Additionally, exercise has been proven to improve mood and can also give patients a sense of responsibility and independence.

Certain precautions when dealing with patients who may be physically compromised such as with low blood pressure need to be considered. However, in an ED program all exercise is monitored by a medical staff member trained to handle emergencies.

Depending on the physical status of the patient, varying degrees of intensity of exercise could be tolerated. Because of the specific nature of eating disorders, mindful engagement with the body should be encouraged in all exercise routines. This is easily accomplished with a moderate activity such as yoga (St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver incorporates yoga into their ED program).

References: 1, 2, 3, 4

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