Gyms and Fitness Clubs

Should Gyms Get Active Regarding Eating Disorders?

I came across an article recently from an Australian newspaper, The Brisbane Times, entitled, "Should gyms intervene if someone has an eating disorder?" I thought this was an excellent question. Eating disorders are a common problem in modern society, due to the ridiculous images of beauty foisted upon us by the mainstream media. As the article states, gyms are in a great place to not only bring about awareness of these troubling disorders, but to actually do something about it.

The author of the editorial noticed a woman at her gym who not only exercises a bit too obsessively, to the point of possible excess, but also seems to exhibit classic signs of having an eating disorder. This made the author, who researches ethics and adolescent health, what role gyms should play in addressing eating disorders. As the author notes, it's a delicate battle.

The author gives several reasons why gyms should take up an active role in helping their members fight eating disorders. The first is the opportunity for intervention, especially early intervention, wherein curing the disorder would be easier. Secondly, the article mentions that several weight loss organizations have strict Body Mass Index requirement, and won't take clients above a certain BMI. If gyms also had similar strictness, they might help advocate a healthy and realistic body image for their clients. Finally, if gyms fail to intervene with members who potentially have eating disorders, they could be encouraging the negative behaviors in those members and others.

On the flip side of the coin, taking an active role could have problems for a gym. First off, people might be offended, bothered, embarrassed or what have you when approached about a possible eating disorder, and might not return to the gym after that. Gyms also aren't usually trained to deal with the delicate psychological matters that go into eating disorders.

Whichever side of the coin your opinion falls on, it's still a tricky subject. Do gyms have a moral responsibility to take an active role in the welfare of their members, or should they just leave well enough alone? It's likely up to the individual gym owners and employees to do what they feel is right, but in my opinion, it also makes sense for gyms, fitness clubs and other health institutions to use their unique positions to help fight against these disorders.