Monday, December 20, 2021

Addicted To Exercise?


I've known people who always seem to be exercising.  One of my neighbors would walk outside for 2 to 3 hours no matter the weather and then ride a stationary bike for another couple of hours.  I asked her if she was a bit overboard on exercising and she said no but I often wondered if she was addicted to exercise.

It is possible to exercise too much and be addicted to it. Exercise addition is defined as having an unhealthy obsession with physical fitness and exercise.  In fact, people addicted to exercise often are obsessed with certain things including exercising and are unwilling to stop so they continue doing it in secret.

Part of the issue is that when you exercise, your body releases certain chemicals which make a person feel good and is perceived as creating a sense of reward or pleasure. Often the person addicted to exercise depend on the pleasure they derive from the release of these chemicals. Many people who are addicted to exercise may also suffer from body dysmorphia, have an eating disorder, or are addicted to losing weight. 

When you exercise, your body actually release endorphins and dopamine which are also released during drug use.  So when they exercise, they experience the pleasure or reward these chemicals cause but when they quit exercising, the feeling  goes away and to keep experiencing the pleasure, they have to start exercising again.

It often starts due to wanting to be more fit, loose a significant amount of weight or perceiving oneself as being larger than in reality.  Often people who feel under pressure to stay in shape, or have an eating disorder or suffer from body dysmorphia are at risk of becoming addicted to exercise. It is thought that many people who are addicted to exercise fall into one of two categories.  The first group may also be addicted to cigarettes, alcohol, or illegal drugs but for the other group, may be addicted to sex or shopping.  In some cases it appears that recovering addicts may use exercise to fill the void left when they no longer suffer from past addictions.

The symptoms of exercise addition include feeling really up and buzzed at the end of a session, suffer from withdrawal symptoms if one does not exercise for long periods of time, have an uncontrollable need to workout, reduce or stop doing other things to find more time to exercise, spend long periods of time both preparing for and recovering from exercise and being unable to stick with a reduced exercise routine. 

Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult to diagnose because there is no simple check list to use to diagnose it and it is not yet fully recognized by the medical community but it does exist. There are seven things to look for if you think you are in a situation where your exercising is controlling you.

First, you are always exercising to work off the calories from the meals you ate or you need to workout to eliminate your fat stomach, you too big thighs or other body part you do not like.  Second, you are always at the gym spending three or four hours there every day.  You know the people at the gym better than you know your neighbors or coworkers.

Third, you are working out so much that you are always tired. This is because you are spending so much time working out and not enough time on yourself and it leads to becoming sick or hurt.  Fourth, you are always changing plans so you can spend more time working out. In addition, you schedule everything around your workout times so you don't miss any of your workout.

Fifth, You have a workout schedule you rigidly adhere to so even if the weather is bad out, or you are sick, you insist on heading out to the gym to work.  Your main goal for working out is to burn calories or lose weight rather than staying in shape for your health. You go through feelings of fear, anxiety, or stress in regard to your body if you can't get out to exercise. Finally, you experience guilt if you have to skip even one exercise session or you have to finish early.

Sixth, the results you experience are decreasing even if you add in more exercise. This can lead to irritability, loss of sleep and appetite. Seventh and lastly, you end up with an unrealistic view of your body or a poor body image. 

If you are concerned you might be addicted to exercise, there are things you can do.  One is to keep a workout journal where you list the days you work, the type and amount of exercise you do, how you feel and how you feel when you are not exercising. You can use this information to help you ease up.  There is a possibility of needing professional help to get over the exercise addiction and this information can help.

Remember, taking a walk every day does not mean you have an exercise addiction but if you walk for 3 hours and then do two aerobics classes for another two hours everyday, you must might.  Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

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