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When Your Exercise Regimen Becomes Unhealthy: Dealing With Exercise Addiction

Updated on November 3, 2011

Regular and daily exercise is, for the most part, a healthy habit that one should develop.  It helps give us a healthy body and helps us develop stamina.  Many experts will agree that regular and daily exercise will help us improve our overall appearance and performance.  And many of us will agree that regular and daily exercise is a difficult task to maintain.


However, there are few people who develop an addiction towards exercise.  Would they be able to maintain a healthy body?  Or even maintain their stamina and strength?  Are they addicted because they find themselves better through exercise?  We don’t really know why they are addicted to exercise.  But experts claim that exercise addicts get their high through endorphins, a hormone that is released during exercise.  This hormone makes us feel good and even helps block some physical pain.


Exercise Addiction

Though regular and daily exercise is generally a healthy behavior that promotes wellness, exercise addiction is just the opposite.  There are many terms used in exercise addiction; compulsive exercise, exercise dependence, obligatory exercise, and exercise abuse.  All of them indicate excessive exercise.  Exercise addiction can impair the individual both socially and physically.


Exercise addiction is categorized either as primary or secondary disorder.  Primary disorder is recognized when the person is addicted to just the exercise itself.  Secondary disorder is recognized when the person is suffering from an existing underlying problem.  And addiction to exercise becomes its outcome.


Individuals with secondary disorder may be dealing with eating disorders, depression, compulsive behaviors, or other emotional problems.  Some might even be dealing with drug addiction.  Individuals who choose to use drugs are most likely using performance enhancers’ drugs and steroids.


It must be remembered that not everyone you see who exercises a lot is an exercise addict.  A true exercise addiction is rare.  But once it is developed, it is both unhealthy and hard to control as most exercise addicts will not stop exercising. 


There are many signs to look for if you want to find out if a person is addicted to exercise. They may have different reasons and motives.

  1. A person may already be in perfect shape but is still trying to achieve perfection through exercise.
  2. The more they exercise, the more they need to exercise.
  3. Always working out alone to avoid attention from other people.
  4. They follow a rigid workout schedule and routine.
  5. Fixation on weight loss and calories burned.
  6. A desire to control their weight and shape.
  7. One who ignores his injuries and illnesses and still continues to exercise.
  8. One who exercises too much and will feel distressed to the extent of panic if he/she will skip an exercise regimen. Not to be confused with exercise enthusiasts. Most exercise enthusiasts might feel guilty when they skip an exercise, but exercise addicts will get distressed and depressed when they skip a workout.
  9. A person will continually increase the impact, intensity, frequency, and duration of their exercise. Exercising to the point of pain and beyond their abilities.
  10. The person may no longer be interacting with their family and friends for the sake of exercise.
  11. Skipping social gatherings and important daily activities such as work for the workout. Exercising is such a major part of their lives, almost nothing else is as important as their workout.


The dangers of exercise addiction are increased risk of fractures, premature osteoporosis, fatigue, soreness, stiffness and muscle atrophy (shrinking of muscles). In women, menstrual abnormalities may be present due to stress and fatigue.


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    • BeatsMe profile image

      BeatsMe 6 years ago

      Kianni, for that problem, you need professional help. Or you could probably look for exercise addiction forums online and discuss these things with its community. Best of luck and I hope you find a solution to your problem.

    • profile image

      Kianni 6 years ago

      Okay, I know what exercise addiction is, now tell me how to stop without having massive anxiety and feeling fat and not knowing what to do now that I have about 4 hours of time open and all I can think about is the fact that I'd normally be exercising!...

    • BeatsMe profile image

      BeatsMe 7 years ago

      Thanks for coming by, Quicksand. :)

    • quicksand profile image

      quicksand 7 years ago

      Like you say, it's the compulsion factor that causes the problem.

    • BeatsMe profile image

      BeatsMe 7 years ago

      Lucky you, Katyzzz. :) Thanks for coming over, hope you've enjoyed reading this.

    • katyzzz profile image

      katyzzz 7 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      No chance of that with me, at least that's one thing of which I'm free, BeatsMe. Lazy to the core.

    • BeatsMe profile image

      BeatsMe 7 years ago

      Hi Property-Invest, thanks for dropping by. Actually, exercise addiction is not a common problem, but once it does becomes a problem, it can be quite hard to handle. :)

    • Property-Invest profile image

      Property-Invest 7 years ago from London

      Thanks for the great hub! I've managed to avoid excercise addiction so far...