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The benefits of physiotherapy in eating disorder recovery

Posted By Rebecca Gawler  

For many people with an eating disorder, movement and exercise couldn't be further from conversations had with their clinicians. However Eat Love Live's physiotherapist, Rebecca Gawler, discusses the benefits of working on your relationship with movement whilst in recovery. 

A person’s relationship with movement and their body can be complicated for so many reasons. For those with eating disorders, over 80% struggle with unhealthy thoughts and/or behaviours around exercise. This looks different for everyone but might include:

  • Avoiding exercise due to thoughts/anxieties
  • Intense feelings of guilt and distress if unable to exercise
  • Cancelling activities or social commitments to exercise
  • Exercising despite injury, illness or weather
  • Rigid exercise routine
  • Feeling out of control around exercise and not being able to stop
  • Exercising to “burn off” food
  • Struggling to have rest days
  • Obsessively counting reps, steps, distance or time

When recovering from an eating disorder, it is often helpful to work on improving your relationship with both food and movement. Working alongside your treatment team, physiotherapists can help guide movement during the recovery process and address any physical concerns that may happen due to malnutrition, over-exercise, stress etc. 

When movement is supported and guided in the recovery process, evidence shows improved long term outcomes, reduced relapse risk and improvements in physical health such as bone density and strength.

A physiotherpist can assist you with:


  • Working on developing a healthy mindset around movement
  • Including movement in the recovery process in a safe and enjoyable way
  • Discovering what type of movement is enjoyable and sustainable for you
  • Learning how to listen to your body
  • Guidance with exploring movement after changes in body shape/size or loss of fitness/strength

Bone health and osteoporosis

  • Education and exercise to improve bone density

Management of pain, injury and tension

  • This might include stress fractures, over-use injuries, muscular tension, pain, weakness and stiffness

Hands on treatment / massage 

  • Helps release muscle tension, manage fluid retention and promote relaxation

Movement re-education 

  • Feeling disconnected from your body is very common in eating disorders. Physiotherapy can help with feeling more connected to and confident in your body and improving stability, posture, balance and movement patterns 

Looking for a physiotherapist to assist you? Meet Rebecca Gawler, ready to provide support in the recovery process. Learn more here!