What Are the Symptoms of Exercise Addiction?

Getting regular exercise is a great way to maintain personal health goals and prevent disease progression. Excessive exercise actually works against these goals by having adverse effects on a person’s physical and mental well being. Learn some of the symptoms of exercise addiction and what to do if it happens to a loved one.

Defining Dependence

Several terms are used to identify exercise addiction including:

  • Compulsive exercise
  • Running addiction
  • Obligatory exercise

Exercise dependence is another way to denote exercise addiction, defined as a pattern of physical activity that exceeds what most fitness and medical professionals consider “normal.” This may result in immense psychological anguish which takes over a person’s personal, professional and social life. This then becomes a self-perpetuating craving for exercise resulting in excessive exertion and possibly distress.

Long Term Effects

Over the long term a person may feel exercise takes over a person’s entire life and, despite injuries, mental issues and physical exhaustion begins to notice the following:

  • Joint and muscles feel the sprains, strains and muscular tears at a higher rate than normal
  • Risk of herniated disks, tendinitis and impingement among other overuse injuries
  • Not taking days off increases risk for fractures, breaks, lower bone density and other bone issues
  • Over exertion during exercise can lead to cardiovascular problems
  • Bodily duress can prompt the brain’s hormonal control centers to ‘shut down’ signals to sex organs, halting reproductive processes

Signs of Addiction

A person who is addicted to exercise may exhibit the following traits:

  • Tolerance whereby increased time and intensity is needed to achieve desired effect
  • Withdrawal such that not exercising leads to negative mood issues including anxiety, depression, anger and frustration
  • Loss of control or awareness of the inability to stop or cut back
  • Large chunks of time are spent on physical activity
  • Non-fitness related activities fall away and the person solely focuses on exercise as a hobby

If a loved one exhibits traits of exercise addiction, it is important to find a way to bring up the topic without seeming harsh, judgmental or condemning of the behavior. Generally speaking it is best to approach the individual with concerns about the time, effort and energy being spent on exercising too much and the harm it may be causing to personal relationships as a result. Then, seek to offer guidance in finding help for any issues that arise.

Lead Recovery Center supports young adults during recovery. We have years of experience supporting young adults through established protocols and programs designed to help get you back on track. If you’re ready to give up an addiction or have a loved one ready to quit, call us at (800) 380-0012. We’re ready to help.