Why gaining weight through exercising is risky for teens

Washington: Maintaining health is a good habit. But a new study has pointed out that some adolescents who indulge in exercises to gain weight are prone to ‘so-called muscularity-oriented disordered eating behaviours.’ The findings published in the journal ‘International Journal of Eating Disorders’ stated that 22 per cent of males and 5 per cent of females aged 18-to-24 exhibit these disordered eating behaviours.

These disorders are defined as including at least one of the following: eating more or differently to gain weight or bulk up, and use of dietary supplements or anabolic steroids to achieve the same goal.

If neglected or left unchecked, these behaviours may escalate to muscle dysmorphia, characterized by rigid diet, obsessive over-exercising and extreme preoccupation with the physique.

“Unlike anorexia nervosa, which may be easily identified by parents or paediatricians, disordered eating to increase bulk may masquerade as healthy habits and because of this, it tends to go unnoticed,” said first author Jason Nagata.

Nagata also added that at its most extreme, it can lead to heart failure due to insufficient calories and overexertion, as well as muscle dysmorphia, which is associated with social withdrawal and depression.

The study incorporated 14,891 young adults from the US who were followed for seven years. The researchers wanted to see if the early data, when the participants’ average age was 15, revealed something about their perceptions and habits that may serve as warning signs. They found that boys who exercised specifically to gain weight had 142 per cent higher odds of this type of disordered eating.

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