Background

Studies have shown that more binge episodes and less physical activity (PA) are independently associated with higher body mass index. However, limited research has examined both behaviors simultaneously among adults of varying weight status. This study investigated the relationship between binge episodes and PA in young adults with normal weight, overweight, and obesity.

Methods

Participants were recruited from 4 US universities. Those of normal weight or overweight/obese status who completed the Eating Disorder Examination-Questionnaire (EDE-Q) and International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ) were included in this study. Participants were categorized into a binge eating group (≥ 4 binge episodes, < 3 episodes of compulsive exercise in the past month) or non-binge eating group using the EDE-Q.

Results

Participants (n=1020; mAge=19.26, SD=1.81; mBMI=25.31, SD=5.7) were primarily White (69.3%) and female (69.6%) with 40.5% (n=413) categorized as having overweight or obesity. Independent samples t-tests revealed a significant difference on binge episodes (p=.003), such that those with overweight/obesity had higher binge frequency, compared to other weight groups; however, no difference was found in compulsive exercise (p>.05). Significant differences were also found in average days of vigorous PA (p=.046) between weight groups, where those of normal weight engaged in more days of vigorous PA, but there was no difference in days of moderate PA or walking (p’s>.05). Within the sample, 92 participants were in the binge eating group. A significant difference was found in days of vigorous PA (p=.035) based on binge status, where the binge eating group engaged in less vigorous PA.

Conclusions

Results highlight the importance of examining binge frequency and PA while considering weight status. Future studies should investigate this relationship over time to monitor changes in behavior and symptom severity, as such research could inform weight loss intervention efforts.