We all know the benefits of regular exercise: a longer life, a decrease in stress, an increase in self-esteem. However, sometimes exercise can become an obsession that can have a negative impact on physical and mental health.
Symptoms of exercise addiction
Exercise addiction is a behavioral addiction, or a compulsion to continually engage in an activity despite the negative impact it has on your life. Exercise addiction may present itself as obsessing over getting a “proper” workout in, feeling guilty over not exercising, exercising more despite wanting to stop, or continuing to workout even when it causes harm. It often presents along with other eating disorders or mental health conditions.
So, how do you know when your dedication to fitness has turned into obsession?
- Tolerance – Having to increase your amount of exercise to feel the desired effect.
- Withdrawal – Experiencing negative effects such as anxiety, irritability, restlessness, and poor sleep when you can’t exercise.
- Lack of control – Being unable to reduce your level of exercise or stop exercising for a certain period of time.
- Consumption: Spending too much time preparing for, engaging in, and recovering from exercise.
- Reduction in other activities – Decreased time spent at work, time shared with friends/family, or other desirable activities.
- Continuance – Continuing to exercise despite knowing the activity is creating problems.
Managing exercise obsession
In order to manage exercise addiction, it’s important to adjust this unhealthy behavior. Defining realistic fitness goals, learning what constitutes healthy exercise, and finding alternative activities that get the body moving are all ways to manage exercise obsession.
However, addiction is often very complex. Getting connected with health professionals such as dietitians and counselors who can help you work through the compulsion and understand triggers will increase your chances of reaching recovery.
Feeling out of control of your exercise habits? Our trained counselors will walk alongside you and help guide you towards a sustainable lifestyle that improves your mental wellbeing.