Reducing compulsive exercise among eating disorder patients

Reducing compulsive exercise among eating disorder patients

The Compulsive Exercise Test and Loughborough Eating Disorders Activity Programme are the world’s first clinical assessment tool and intervention designed to assess and treat compulsive exercise among eating disorder patients.

Since 1998, a Loughborough team has been conducting research into the fundamental thought processes that underpin eating disorders.

The research – combined with the findings of numerous studies from world-leading groups – demonstrates that compulsive exercise is often one of the first symptoms to develop and tends to be associated with poor treatment outcomes and high relapse rates for eating disorder patients.

The University’s work to understand compulsive exercise led to the development of a reliable measurement tool – the Compulsive Exercise Test (CET) – which has been subject to extensive analysis and evaluation and is being used around the world.

In addition to the test, the researchers have developed a cognitive-behavioural intervention – the Loughborough Eating Disorders Activity Programme (LEAP).

LEAP is delivered in group or individual settings and is used with in-patients and outpatients. The associated LEAP manual is being used extensively in international training workshops.

An audit of the use of the CET and LEAP has verified that these innovations have changed the way in which clinicians across the globe assess and manage compulsive exercise within their services.


  • Global Use

    The National Eating Disorders Collaboration (Australia) and Harvard University (USA) both recommend the Compulsive Exercise Test as a key screening measure for eating disorders.

  • Case Reduction

    Use of the Compulsive Exercise Test has a preventative impact of considerable significance by providing assessment of this early eating disorder symptom – thereby providing a target for early intervention and reducing the overall number of eating disorder cases.

  • Improving Quality of Life

    LEAP has reduced hospital stays from 41 to 31 days, and improves quality of life whilst reducing anxiety levels among eating disorder patients.

  • Global Reach

    Since 2011, over 60 specialist eating disorder services in the UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Norway and Italy have downloaded the LEAP manual. As a result, at least 520 patients worldwide have benefitted from the programme.

  • Clinician Training

    Loughborough experts have delivered training workshops to the clinicians who deliver LEAP and disseminated their acquired knowledge. 85% of these clinicians endorsed the programme as ‘useful’ or ‘very useful’ in helping them to understand and manage problematic exercise.