What you need to know:
- It's essential for those experiencing these symptoms of exercise addiction to speak up, reach out for help, or take things slow until they find the proper workout schedule.
- It may be hard for someone who has an addiction to realise that they have a problem.
- Do not compare your workout schedule with that of another person.
Exercise addiction, also known as exercise dependence, is an unhealthy relationship with working out, where one feels the need to work out excessively in order to function normally.
Many people with this problem do not realise they are struggling until it becomes too late and their lifestyle starts affecting everything else around them. If you think that you might be suffering from exercise addiction, read on to learn more about what it means and how you can get help.
The process of addiction
Exercise addiction doesn't happen overnight. In some cases, it can take years before a problem is identified. This means that it may be hard for someone who has an addiction to realise that they have a problem.
How much is too much exercise?
It is easy to get caught up in the idea of exercising for your health. Unfortunately, there's no exact definition of how many workouts you should do per week or what counts as excessive, so only you will know when enough is enough.
When someone starts experiencing negative effects from their workouts, when they feel like it's the only thing getting them through their day or if they can't stop working out even though they don't want to, that's a sign that something needs to change.
Do not compare your workout schedule with that of another person. Everyone has different health goals and abilities, so what you might consider too much exercise could be just right for someone else.
Four stages to exercise addiction
Exercising for enjoyment
At this stage, you are doing it for fun. You work out because you enjoy it and find pleasure in the process. You don't need to do a specific number of workouts per week, but you go as often as your schedule allows.
Exercising for stress relief
At this stage, exercise becomes something you do to reduce stress after a hard day at work or home. For example, someone might have a set number of exercise sessions that they complete per week. However, they may start to feel anxious when they miss one of their workouts because it throws them off schedule and causes stress levels to flare up again.
This is the first time you experience symptoms related to exercise addiction. You find yourself exercising more than intended or not taking breaks when you should. It's also common to take part in exercises that are risky or outside of your comfort zone.
Exercises that are difficult to complete
At this stage, you might feel like your addiction is out of control. It's not unusual to push yourself too far, and while it feels good at the moment, you may experience adverse effects later on. You also start feeling guilty when you don't go through with a workout or miss one because it throws off your schedule for that day.
The exercise addiction
At this point, it becomes impossible to stop working out even if you want to or feel like the workouts are negatively impacting your life. In addition, you might start feeling a strong sense of withdrawal when you miss a workout.
How to get help
If you think that your workouts are starting to control your life, do not ignore the signs because they can become severe problems later.
Ask a fitness trainer to guide you on a proper workout schedule for your unique needs. They can also help keep your workouts safe but challenging enough.
Self-control is also essential. Even if you have a fitness trainer, it's your responsibility to follow their guidance to avoid getting hurt or damaging your body when working out.
You may also want to consider speaking with a doctor or therapist if the problem persists.