RESEARCH

InSideOut Initiative, Fitness Australia to tackle eating disorders in fitness industry

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University of Sydney is involved in a collaborative intitiative with Fitness Australia to shed some light on the prevalence on eating disorders in the fitness industry.


By U2B Staff 

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InSideOut Initiative, a collaboration between the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre and Sydney Local Health District has teamed up with Fitness Australia to co-launch Eating Disorders: Recommendations for the Fitness Industry.

The list of new recommendations was written and reviewed by a team of experienced mental health, medical and fitness professionals, as well as researchers and policy experts.

The list is designed to help fitness businesses and exercise professionals work effectively with people who have an eating disorder, exercise disorder or muscle dysmorphia.

The recommendations are also designed to equip fitness professionals with the right skills to appropriately address issues of health and safety within a fitness facility or setting.

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Commenting on the launch of the new recommendations, Director of InsideOut Initiative, Sarah Maguire said that gyms and fitness facilities are one of the most important commercial settings for the identification of eating disorders and early intervention.

Maguire added that eating disorders frequently present within the fitness industry and have a high prevalence among sportspeople. The high mortality rates pose a significant issue for fitness professionals who are not trained in the management of eating disorders.

Fitness professionals are not trained in handling mental health issues, and there is a pressing need to equip them with the skills that will enable them to address these high prevalence disorders in their work settings.

“People working in the fitness industry are really on the frontline when it comes to eating disorders. We are hopeful this set of recommendations can promote the early identification of eating disorders and sensitive and appropriate handling of people who present with symptoms.”

“We commend Fitness Australia for working with us to develop and implement these guidelines and for addressing this important health concern within their environment.” says Maguire.

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CEO of Fitness Australia, Barrie Elvish stated that personal trainers, fitness instructors, and fitness business managers have an important role to play when it comes to eating and exercise disorders.

Elvish adds that the organisation wants registered fitness professionals to have access to the best available training, including training on how to be part of the solution for people with eating disorders.

He added that fitness professionals can reduce risk by having a positive approach to promoting physical activity and health.

The list of new recommendations covers areas in how fitness professionals and providers market and advertise their services. The list of recommendations includes how the messaging is delivered and recommends that messages should focus on health, not weight, and be delivered from a holistic perspective with equal consideration given to social, emotional and physical health.

It also states that fitness professionals should focus the focus from weight to behaviour modification, including changing habits around physical activity and eating habits.

The recommendation also includes a list of behavioural warning signs that fitness professionals should be equipped to identify, including harmful calorie-counting, evidence of vomiting or laxative use, and even food or meal avoidance.

Some of the psychological warning signs listed include obsession with body shape and weight, anxiety surrounded food and eating, as well as guilt, self-loathing and depression.

The recommendation comes with a referral process, which provides guidelines for fitness professionals to refer at-risk clients to medical professionals for assessment and guidance.