Objective: The aim of this literature review is to summarize the previous researches related with the role that plays physical activity and sports in the development and prevalence of eating disorders. Through analysing the principal lines of investigation in this topic, this literature review tries to show toward which directions are following the international publications attending these two parameters: eating disorders and physical activity. The presence of the national researches (Spanish) has been analysed too for determining the importance that our country gives to the investigations of these topics.
Method: Different databases have been used in order to get the information provided by the scientific studies, always using as references the published articles in the virtual journals: E-Journals, MEDLINE with full text, and SPORTDiscus with full text, or official websites.
Discussion: Eating disorders are complex illness and the level of participation of physical activity and sports in these diseases has been widely discussed. Interrelations between social, biological, genetic, characteristics of the sport, environment… factors, are determinant to understand the development and the prevalence of eating disorders. Our role as professionals of the physical activity has also been the debate subject: What can we do in these cases? Where are our limits to act when a case of an athlete struggling with any eating disorder is discovered?
Conclusion: There is no consensus between the found researchers in many of the analysed aspects. But, it is possible to distinguish some common parameters and possible factors that increase the risk of a person for falling into an eating disorder. Eating disorders are provoked by the interrelations of many factors as culture, genetic, characteristics of the sport… they are not isolated events. According to the articles reviewed: female, adolescence and early adulthood, history of relatives with eating disorders, aesthetic, endurance or weight categories sports, and pressures from the environment are high risk factors for developing an eating disorder. This literature review also found some practical guides and advices for helping the coaches, trainers, fitness instructors… to achieve a better understanding on how to prevent and detect when an athlete may be struggling with an eating disorder. Physical activity may be recommended depending of each case, under controlled measures, but still there is not a concrete methodology of a programme of physical activity for people with an eating disorder.
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