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Am I Addicted to Exercise?

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  • Written By: Dana Hinders
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 09 November 2016
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Exercise offers many benefits, including a boost in energy levels, an increase in self esteem, and an enhanced sense of physical well-being. However, it is possible to become addicted to exercise. While an addiction to exercise is fairly rare and not as dangerous as an addiction to heroin, cocaine, or other illegal drugs, it's still a problem that must be dealt with in a timely fashion.

Technically speaking, an addiction is something that is interfering with your job, relationships, or other important daily activities. If you plan your entire day around your visits to the gym, you may be addicted to exercise. If the people around you are saying they feel like your workout routine is always your top priority, you may be addicted to exercise. If you are missing your child's dance recital and canceling plans with your friends to go running, you may be addicted to exercise. It's fine to enjoy exercise, but not to the extent that you're neglecting other aspects of your life. Balance is the key to determining whether or not a behavior is a healthy habit.

Another potential way to tell if you have a problem with excessive exercising is how you feel when you skip a workout. Do you feel irritable and anxious? Do you try to punish yourself for a missed workout by pushing even harder when you return to the gym? If you have trouble allowing yourself to miss even one day of exercise, you may have a problem.

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The cause of an exercise addiction is unknown. As you might expect, some people exercise excessively because they are trying to get in shape or compensate for perceived physical flaws. Others, however, simply enjoy the "runner's high" that occurs when the body releases beta-endorphins after an intense workout. Sometimes, people who are addicted to exercise may be struggling with eating disorders. Young women suffering from anorexia, for example, often develop extreme exercise regimens in an attempt to further speed up their weight loss. They will exercise for hours at a time, even if they are injured. Bulimics will also sometimes exercise for long periods to help compensate for their binge eating episodes.

If you think you may be addicted to exercise, the first step in addressing the problem is to speak to your healthcare provider. He or she will be able to evaluate your exercise habits and determine if counseling or other treatment options may be necessary.

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Discuss this Article

stl156
Post 4

I think it is really unfortunate that some people are so concerned about looking good that they would become addicted to exercise on top of having an eating disorder. It sort of seems like they would be setting themselves up for a vicious cycle.

On one hand, they want to look good so they develop the eating disorder. That in and of itself I don't understand, since I've yet to meet anyone who thinks an extremely anorexic person is attractive. Anyway, then they workout excessively at the gym, but since they aren't getting the vitamins and minerals they need, the exercise is going to have a minimal effect. They won't see results and will continue the cycle.

I

can't really fault the people themselves. I think most things like this are brought on by a lot of factors, mostly a person's personality, which they can't necessarily change by themselves. For that reason, I think it's really up to friends and family members to notice these things and help the person out, since they won't be able to do it on their own.
Emilski
Post 3

I would be curious to know more about how to get addicted to exercise. I'm not saying I would personally want to be addicted, but if scientists were able to figure out the exact mechanism that caused it, they might be able to use the information to better motivate people that don't really care for exercising.

Exercising is a great thing in moderation that everyone should do, but I have known plenty of people that just can't stand to do it even when they really want to get in shape. For that reason, I really don't think the people who are at the gym are just there because they have the drive and dedication to be in shape. I

think they are there because something in their body gives them the desire to be there, and getting in shape is just a byproduct of that.

I guess really part of it is seeing results, too. I have seen a lot of people not get immediate results and give up, and a lot of times it isn't necessarily caused by a lack of effort, just a lack of doing the right types of exercises.

titans62
Post 2

I hate exercising, so I always think it is incredible when I hear something about someone being addicted to exercise or at least feeling like they want to do it. I started a running routine and forced myself to do it for a couple of weeks, but I couldn't stand it after that. I never got the runner's high that everyone talks about. As far as I was concerned, running was just a way to end up sweaty that wasted an hour or so of my day.

I can see how it would happen, though. I suppose it is analogous to people getting addicted to video games or the internet or something else. I don't know if it is a chemical reaction with the brain or what, but it seems like there is always a certain segment of the population that can get addicted to anything.

jcraig
Post 1

It does sound strange, but I have known someone that was addicted to exercise. The worst part is that his exercise regime was so extreme that it probably ended up hurting him in the long run.

You need a certain resting period between workouts so that your muscles can grow and repair, and he just completely ignored all that stuff saying that the more time he spent in the gym, the stronger he would get. Eventually, the exercise caught up with him and he ended up tearing up part of his shoulder with some type of workout.

He eventually had to get surgery on it, and it still didn't stop him. He just went to the gym and

worked on other parts of his body until the shoulder was healed. Oddly enough, the addiction ended when he got a new job that forced him to work different hours, and he eventually weaned himself off of going every day and dropped it down to four or five days instead of seven.

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