Eating disorders and excessive exercise : a comparison of high-impact aerobics and road running

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

Excessive exercise has always been a noted characteristic of patients with anorexia nervosa. Recent research has focused on the impact of physical activities, depending on their nature, towards the susceptibility of disordered eating or excessive exercise. The present study explores the hypothesis that when the pressure to be fit overrides the pressure to be thin, t his will lead to disturbed attitudes and behaviours towards exercise. When the pressure to be thin overrides the pressure to be fit, subjects will be more susceptible to the development of eating problems. Further, it is hypothesised that the prevalence of eating pathology is higher among the female subjects, while males are more inclined to be susceptible to exercising excessively. In order to examine these hypotheses, three independent groups, matched for age and gender, were studied. High-impact Aerobics participants (n =59) and Road Runners (n = 85) were chosen as they represented respectively : an athletic group that emphasises thinness and an athletic group that places an emphasis on fitness. A control group (n = 61) was also recruited. In terms of the results, a statistical analysis revealed that the high-impact aerobics group reflected greater eating, weight and body shape concerns than the other two groups, while the road runners were more preoccupied with exercise concerns than the other two groups. In a gender comparison, the females were more preoccupied than males with eating, weight and body shape concerns, while both genders reported similar exercise concerns. The data suggest that road runners are not necessarily vulnerable to the development of eating disorders merely due to their physical activity.

Bibliography: leaves 46-57.