Purpose: Since a distorted body experience and a sedentary lifestyle are central in the course of binge eating disorder (BED), physical therapy might be an interesting add-on treatment. The aim of this study was to systematically review randomised controlled trials (RCTs) evaluating physical therapy on binge eating and physical and mental health in BED patients.
Method: EMBASE, PsycINFO, PubMed, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature, Physiotherapy Evidence Database and Cochrane Library were searched from their inception until 15 August 2012 for relevant RCTs comparing physical therapy with a placebo condition, control intervention or standard care.
Results: Three RCTs involving 211 female community patients (age range: 25-63 years) met all selection criteria. Review data demonstrate that aerobic and yoga exercises reduce the number of binges and the body mass index (BMI) of BED patients. Aerobic exercise also reduces depressive symptoms. Only combining cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) with aerobic exercise and not CBT alone reduces BMI. Combining aerobic exercise with CBT is more effective in reducing depressive symptoms than CBT alone.
Conclusions: The limited number of available studies and the heterogeneity of the interventions limit overall conclusions and highlight the need for further research.
Implications for rehabilitation: Because of severe co-morbid psychiatric and physical conditions, binge eating disorder is one of the most difficult psychiatric conditions to treat. Both yoga and aerobic exercise have shown promise in reducing binge eating pathology and weight. Combining aerobic exercise with cognitive behavioural therapy seems more effective in reducing depressive symptoms than cognitive behavioural therapy alone.