This study aimed to develop an understanding of excessive exercise in eating disorders by exploring the role of exercise beliefs, obsessive beliefs and obsessive-compulsive behaviours.
Sixty-four women were recruited from eating disorder services and 75 non-clinical women were recruited from a university. Exercise beliefs and behaviours, obsessive beliefs and behaviours and eating disorder psychopathology were assessed using self-report questionnaires.
There was an association between exercise beliefs, obsessive beliefs and obsessive-compulsive behaviours in the eating-disordered group, but not in the non-eating-disordered group. In the eating-disordered group obsessive beliefs and obsessive-compulsive behaviours were associated with a significant proportion of variance in exercise beliefs after controlling for eating disorder psychopathology and BMI. In the non-eating-disordered group obsessive beliefs and behaviours were associated with beliefs about exercise as a method of affect regulation after controlling for BMI.
The results are compatible with a model in which obsessive beliefs and exercise beliefs could maintain exercise in eating disorders. This has implications for the assessment and treatment of excessive exercise. Further research is necessary to determine the causality of these relationships.
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