The relationship between compulsive exercise and emotion regulation in adolescents

Objective. Compulsive exercise is suggested to be a strategy to regulate emotions. This suggestion has never been studied in adolescents. Therefore, this study examined the cross-sectional association between emotion regulation and compulsive exercise attitudes in adolescents. Design. A cross-sectional design was employed for this study. Method. A sample of 1,630 adolescent boys and girls completed self-report measures of compulsive exercise, emotion regulation, and disordered eating attitudes, as part of ongoing research into exercise and eating attitudes in adolescents. Results. Compulsive exercise was significantly associated with emotion regulation, after controlling for disordered eating attitudes. Among boys, compulsive exercise was associated with internal functional, internal dysfunctional, and external functional emotion regulation strategies. In girls, internal functional and internal dysfunctional emotion regulation strategies predicted compulsive exercise. Conclusions. Adolescents’ compulsivity towards exercise is positively associated with different emotion regulation strategies. More work is needed to identify whether emotion regulation strategies longitudinally predict compulsive exercise.