Background: The highly driven and often excessive exercise seen in eating disorder patients can be defined as a compulsive behaviour, and is often performed for weight control reasons, as well as for mood regulatory purposes. Compulsive exercisers often exercise in a rigid and rule-driven manner and predominantly report no enjoyment from the activity. Importantly, compulsive exercise has negative clinical implications, such as prolonging eating disorder treatment and representing a key factor in eating disorder relapse. However, despite these negative clinical implications and the large percentage of patients that may experience these harmful and detrimental behaviours, the body of literature examining the aetiology of compulsive exercise is relatively scarce and lacks a coherent theoretical underpinning. Objectives: This thesis aimed to provide the first known investigations into the possible correlates and risk factors for compulsive exercise in adolescent boys and girls. Main Findings: The key prospective predictors of compulsive exercise found in this thesis were self-perfectionism and obsessive-compulsiveness for boys. For girls, internal dysfunctional emotion regulation and a perceived media pressure to be thin were the key risk factors for compulsive exercise. Implications: The results from the thesis suggest that psychological factors are important in the development of compulsive exercise in boys, whereas in girls, a combination of dysfunctional emotion regulation and socio-cultural pressure to be thin could lead to the development of compulsive exercise cognitions and attitudes. Further research is needed to replicate and extend these results, although these thesis findings still provide useful empirical evidence to inform prevention and early intervention programmes for compulsive exercise in adolescents.
A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.