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Page last updated at 06:24 GMT, Thursday, 23 April 2009 07:24 UK
Call for gyms to help fitness addicts

Newsbeat's Briar Burley meets a former exercise addict

Fitness centres should do more to help people who do a dangerous amount of exercise, according to an eating disorder charity.

Beat has told Newsbeat that health clubs should train staff to spot and advise members who are over-exercising.

Doctors say up to 75% of sufferers also have eating disorders and are risking serious health issues.

Compulsive exercisers feel forced to exercise, often for hours every day, in order to burn calories.

Typically they will continue to exercise through illness and feel extreme guilt if they miss a workout.

Lynsey Bowman is a fit and healthy 19-year-old but she used to be anorexic.

At my worst I was getting up and doing maybe a hundred sit-ups, runs, bike rides, walks, whatever I could do
Lynsey Bowman

She told Newsbeat: "My parents suddenly took control of my food, so that's when I turned to exercise because as far as I could see that's the only way I could still eat and lose weight."

Aged 16 her weight dropped to six stone. She was rushed into A&E because her heart rate had fallen dangerously low due to malnutrition and over-exercise.

She said: "At my worst I was getting up and doing maybe a hundred sit-ups, runs, bike rides, walks, whatever I could do just as long as I wasn't sitting down."

Tighter checks

Lynsey did a lot of exercise in her bedroom so her parents wouldn't know, but many sufferers burn their calories at the gym.

Susan Ringwood is from beat and says staff at health centres should be trained to spot and advise compulsive exercisers.

She told Newsbeat: "We would like to see the exercise industry and the gyms in particular have some guidelines in place to help people who might be at risk."

Mario Pederzolli
Gym owner Mario is not convinced that fitness centres can help

The charity also wants gyms to take a record of people who might have a history of eating disorders.

"If you've got a heart complaint or asthma it's marked in your notes when you join. We'd like the gyms to do the same with eating disorders."

Doing too much exercise puts a dangerous amount of pressure on your body.

Muscles and bones are often damaged and if they're not given time to heal it can result in long-term damage, like osteoporosis, arthritis and heart problems.

'Nanny state'

Not everyone thinks health clubs should be made to help sufferers though.

Mario Pederzolli runs Fitrooms in south London. He said: "A member in a gym working out - that's only a very small part of their week.

"Who's to say what they'll be doing elsewhere? At the end of the day… it's about the individual rather than a nanny state blanket rule for everybody."

At the moment there are no guidelines for dealing with compulsive exercisers but the Fitness Industry Association, which represents around half the UK's gyms, says staff can and should act if members are making themselves ill through exercise.

Doctors say teenagers and young people especially should try and limit gyms sessions to three to four 45 minute sessions a week.

Anyone who is worried about over-exercising is advised to speak to their GP.

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