We all know that to be healthy we’ve got to exercise regularly. But do some people take exercise too far? How much exercise is too much?
It is entirely possible to become addicted to exercise. In fact, it is estimated that 3% of regular gym-goers are exercise addicts. But this number can change dramatically depending on the specific population and type of physical activity.
As an example, research suggests that roughly 25% of amateur runners may be considered addicted to exercise while a whopping 50% of marathon runners may be addicts.
While the prevalence of exercise addiction may be low compared to other more common addictions (drugs, alcohol, gambling), considering the physical (shin splints, irregular heartbeats, fatigue) and emotional toll an exercise addiction brings, it’s important to address the issue.
What is Exercise Addiction Exactly?
Simply put, this addiction describes someone who is fanatical about physical activity despite any negative consequences. The symptoms experienced with this addiction are similar to other addictions. The only difference is the “drug” of choice here is fitness.
Symptoms of exercise addiction include:
There is a growing need for more and more physical activity to get the same endorphin highs, greater self-esteem, etc.
On days when the addict doesn’t exercise, there is a feeling of anxiety, depression, irritability, etc.
Loss of Control
It feels incredibly challenging for exercise addicts to keep their fitness levels down to manageable levels.
More time is given to physical fitness than to work, social life, hobbies, etc. In fact, over time, less and less time is given to social or work activities while exercise becomes even more of a priority.
Poor Decision Making
Despite illness, injury, or caution given by concerned friends and family or healthcare workers, addicts persist with their physical activity levels.
This article in no way intends to suggest that exercise is bad. As long as it’s done in a healthy manner, exercise obviously brings a lot of benefits to our hearts, bones, and muscles.
But when someone becomes obsessed with working out, to the extent that they begin to jeopardize their health and relationships, they have become addicted and need to seek treatment. If left unchecked, exercise addiction can be as bad for our health as being completely sedentary and inactive.
Exercise addiction can be treated through cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This type of mental health modality helps a person discover where their addiction comes from and adjust their behavior accordingly.
If you or someone you love has an exercise addiction and would like to explore treatment options, please reach out to me.