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Fitness trackers and eating disorders – is there a link?

Fitness and health tracking devices are becoming increasingly popular and a huge variety of wearable tech and apps now exist. Indeed, many smartphones and smart watches now come primed and ready to track our activity, sleep and nutrition.

Research has for a long time highlighted how monitoring behaviours can help to lead to positive changes in our lifestyles. It can be an effective way to help increase physical activity, and to achieve weight loss.

But monitoring physical activity and food intake may not be useful for everyone. Indeed, people with eating disorders often have unhealthy relationships with food and exercise. Obsessive behaviours such as calorie counting, rigid, driven exercise and unhealthy perfectionism are common among those with eating issues. 

A small body of research has started to explore how fitness trackers and calorie counting apps might be linked to disordered eating and exercise.

Higher levels of body dissatisfaction and disordered eating have been identified among those who use tracking tools, compared to those who do not. And many patients with eating disorders report using calorie counting tools such as MyFitnessPal. And these tools have been identified as having a negative impact on their eating disorder symptoms...

Dr Carolyn Plateau, of the School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, discusses if there is a link between fitness trackers and eating disorders in The Conversation. You can read the full article here

Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 19/127

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