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Excessive Exercise

Abstract: Excessive exercise can cause further hunger sense suppression. In this way you risk maintaining or worsening an eating disorder.

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Excessive Exercise

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Question(s): 
Written by: Fabio Piccini, doctor and Jungian psychotherapist, in charge of the "Centre for Eating Disorders Therapy" at "Malatesta Novello" nursing home in Cesena. Works privately in Rimini and Chiavari. E-mail:
First version: 22 Jul 2008.
Latest revision: 28 Nov 2015.

How much exercise is best? Is there a risk with exercising too much? Do some people exercise more than is good for them?

Answer:

One of the techniques frequently used by people with eating disorders is to try to control their weight by burning up calories with exercise. When people do not accept half-measures, it is obvious that either they do not do it, or they do it excessively. So exercise is treated in the same way as diet.

Doing exercises for people affected by eating disorders usually means exhausting hours of aerobics such as: gym, dancing, cycling, running, etc., that can last several hours a day, every day.

It is clear that this kind of exercise becomes excessive, because when it has been a permanent routine it is impossible for them to give it up except with great anxiety and it begins interfering with the development of normal, daily activities.

It is not easy to find time to study, work, see one’s friends etc., if one has to work out at least 2-3 hours a day.

Moreover, it has been found by some Australian researchers that excessive exercise can cause further hunger sense suppression. In this way you risk maintaining or worsening an eating disorder. We have noticed that when a patient begins to regain weight this vicious circle is interrupted. Excessive exercise risks are linked to the induction of a fasting effect that leads to further protein-calorie deficit and then to a worsening of the malnutrition situation.

Doing exercises in a weak physical condition can be very dangerous; at best we will have the development of muscular and articular harm; at worst, cardiovascular collapse and death caused by cardiac insufficiency.

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