May 2024 – Exercise Program Within Adult Psychiatric Inpatient Services for those with Disordered Eating

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Revolutionising Recovery: Exercise Program Within Adult Psychiatric Inpatient Services for Disordered Eating

Disordered eating behaviors often coexist with dysfunctional exercise practices, such as compulsive exercise or exercise dependence. These issues contribute to a prevalent misconception that physical activity is unsafe for individuals with eating disorders. However, a pioneering program at Fremantle Hospital Mental Health Service, led by Thriving team members A/Prof Bonnie Furzer and Dr. Kemi Wright, is challenging this notion by integrating carefully monitored and nutritionally supported exercise therapy into the treatment of inpatient services for those with disordered eating.

The team, which includes Caleb McMahen, Jessica Luke, Brittany Herbert, Conor Boyd, and Azam Edoo, focuses on demonstrating that exercise, when properly managed, can significantly enhance the quality of life, physical and mental health, cardiovascular conditioning, bone health, and overall recovery for patients. The program is tailored to accommodate the unique needs of individuals with eating disorders alongside other psychiatric illnesses, offering a variety of movement types based on personal preferences, medical stability, and specific therapeutic goals.

Preliminary results from the program have been encouraging. It has been both safe and feasible, with positive feedback from patients and their medical teams. However, the success of such an initiative relies heavily on the advanced training and continuous support of the exercise staff involved in delivering the program.

As the program and its evaluation continue, the findings are promising. There is a position statement currently under development, led by Bonnie and Kemi, which will outline the role of exercise in the treatment of eating disorders, expected to be published early 2025. Additionally, a Thriving course titled ‘Exercise in Severe Mental Illness’, which will include content specifically related to eating disorders, is in development with the aim to be available in the second half of 2024.

This initiative not only supports recovery but also builds a foundation for a healthier approach to exercise and eating behaviours among those battling eating disorders, underscoring the critical role of integrated care in psychiatric settings.