Compulsive Exercise Treatment

Newbridge’s treatment programme to address compulsive exercise has been published by an international journal.

A manualised group therapy approach developed at Newbridge is effective at reducing compulsive exercise, an international journal report shows.

The journal, Eating and Weight Disorders – Studies on Anorexia, Bulimia and Obesity, has published a paper on the Newbridge programme in its April 2020 edition.

Compulsive exercise is defined as a rigid approach to exercise, with high levels of anxiety if not followed and harmful effects. Excessive and compulsive exercise is recognised as a common symptom of eating disorders and left untreated, can be a significant maintenance factor.

The Loughborough Eating Disorder Activity Programme (LEAP), using a cognitive behavioural therapy-based approach to treating compulsive exercise, was already well established and shown to be effective.

However, LEAP was designed for adult patients and when applied at Newbridge, where patients are aged eight to 18, there was a significant drop-out rate. At the time, there was no evidence-based approach to compulsive exercise tailored to children and adolescents.

Consequently, Newbridge began a process of developing a programme based on the principles of LEAP but designed for younger patients. This involved simplifying some aspects of the programme and working with patients to ensure content was relevant and engaging. At each stage of development, the programme was evaluated with patients.

The study published in Eating and Weight Disorders – Studies on Anorexia, Bulimia and Obesity involves 32 young people who were in inpatient treatment at Newbridge with a primary diagnosis of anorexia nervosa.

The Compulsive Exercise Test (CET) was undertaken before and after completion of the programme. Analysis shows a significant reduction in compulsive exercise after the programme was completed, with drops in rule-driven behaviour, weight-control exercise and rigidity.

Feedback from patients shows the programme was well tolerated, with the large majority reporting it was helpful.

Professor Hubert Lacey, director of research for Newbridge comments: “This exemplifies what we strive to do at Newbridge. We identified the need for an approach to compulsive exercise that worked for younger patients and so we embarked on the process of developing one.

“We did this in close collaboration with patients, testing and incorporating their feedback at all stages and we applied full research rigour in order to establish a firm research base. As such, it is really pleasing to see this reflected here: publication of our work in a highly respected international journal.

“I would like to thank every member of our team delivering and evaluating JuniorLEAP at Newbridge. This was very much a team effort, together with the vital contributions of the young people who took part in the programme and provided feedback.”

The full paper in Eating and Weight Disorders – Studies on Anorexia, Bulimia and Obesity can be read here.