Information for fitness professionals

Key points:

  • Sports and fitness professionals are in an ideal position to notice when exercise develops into an obsession
  • Some sports and activities are particularly high-risk
  • It’s important to be aware of your own risk factors and practice self-care

Participating in exercise and sport can be a fun, enjoyable and social way to improve your physical and mental health. For some people however, their dedication to sport and exercise can turn into an unhealthy obsession.

Some sports and activities have a particular focus on body shape, weight or composition. Weight-lifting, boxing, horse racing, rowing, gymnastics, swimming, figure skating and dance are examples of sports that can encourage people to conform to a specific body type. The competitive nature of many sports can be a risk, especially when athletes are judged or compared with each other on an individual basis, such as in cycling, athletics, or swimming.

As a fitness or sporting professional, you’re in an ideal position to notice signs that someone needs support, and refer them on to seek professional help.

Things to watch for:

  • Taking supplements for weight loss/gain, or performance enhancement
  • Steroid misuse
  • Becoming anxious about missed sessions or disruption to exercise
  • Training despite illness or injury
  • Exercising to the point of exhaustion
  • Exercising at unusual times (e.g. in a 24-hour gym, someone who comes at 3am without a legitimate reason)
  • Talking about exercise or sport just as a means of burning calories or compensating for food eaten
  • Fitness level not improving or even regressing despite still exercising
  • Experiencing dizziness, light-headedness, or disorientation during or after exercise
  • Low heart rate
  • Weighing themselves frequently
  • Unwillingness to take rest days

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