Are you addicted to the gym

Exercise is really helpful almost all the time. It has many benefits for your liver, heart, brain, bones and muscles and it can boost our mood. So it may be strange for you to discover that sometimes it can be hazardous. But for approximately 3% of the general population aiming to stay fit does more harm than good.

Exercise addiction

There is indeed a problem with exercise addiction. It’s believed that its prevalence is highest among runners, triathletes and people who have eating disorders. It can have moderately inconvenient consequences or potentially pathological ones – buildup of arterial plaque,irregular heartbeat, stiffening and scarring of the heart tissue. Such pathological issues aren’t uncommon amongst the long-term endurance athletes. About 25%-52% of them show signs of being addicted to exercising.

But what means exercise addiction and how to tell if one has it. We aim to answer this questions, see what are the signs and risk factors.

To simplify it, exercise addiction is the enormous pursuit of physical activity with this pursuit persisting despite the physical, emotional or/and social consequences. The symptoms are similar to the symptoms of other addictions, like:

  • Tolerance – this is the need for more and more of the initial activity in order to be achieved the same sought-after effect – like reducing anxiety, alleviation of negative feelings or thoughts, etc.
  • Withdrawal – feelings of irritability, fatigue, anxiety or other negative physical and emotional experiences when unable to workout as it has been planned.
  • Intention effect – the repeated exceeding of the planned limits to the amount of training time.
  • Lack of control – inability to keep one’s physical activity at a manageable level – including feeling compulsions to exercise and experiencing thoughts for exercising in work or social situations.
  • Reductions in other activities – sidelining of the work-related, social and leisure activities to prioritize fitness which is often detrimental of one’s interpersonal and emotional wellbeing.
  • Continuance – persistence of physical activity despite injury, illness, negative psychological outcomes or medical advice.

If you are experiencing one or two of the above symptoms, this doesn’t necessarily mean you are completely addicted to exercise. The exercise dependency is measured from minor to severe.

Many people who exercise regularly ay experience tolerance or withdrawal but can attend to the demands of school, work, home life and social life, keeping the obsessive thoughts away.

But the cumulative effect of those symptoms indicate that the passion has turned into addiction.

Note, exercise itself isn’t bad. Physical activity may have some risks but the benefits far outweigh the potential costs. And the inactivity has far more risks – higher risk of obesity,diabetes, heart disease, reduced longevity and other health problems.

Bur when one repeatedly overdoes exercise, the mind and the body are put under a lot of stress. Some research says that may be vigorous exertion for more than 17 hours a week is just as bad as never getting up from the couch.

Questions to ask yourself

  • Do you cancel your social engagements in order to go for an extra exercise sessions?
  • Do you let your loved ones down in order to stick to your training regime?
  • Do you exercise when you aren’t feeling well or are injured?
  • Do others say you are working-out too much and say you need to take it easy?
  • Does your work performance suffer due to your training regime?
  • How do you feel if you have to skip exercise?

How to not go too hard

  • Pick complementary workouts – don’t do two similar workouts one next to the other or you’ll be putting too much stress on your mind and body.
  • Skip 1-2 days a week – rest is vital in fitness. Exercise wears your body down and your body needs some time to recover.
  • Eat enough – the more exercise you do, the more calories you’ll need. If you eat too little, then your bones may weaken and you’ll be at a higher risk of an injury.
  • Stop when you feel tired or are in pain – listen to what your body is telling you. Pain means there is something wrong. Also, when you are feeling tired, you lose some of your form and this increases the risk of injury.

Resources:
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/health-fitness/body/i-was-addicted-to-exercise-heres-how-to-spot-the-signs/
https://www.self.com/story/how-to-know-addicted-to-exercise
https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-truth-about-exercise-addiction/201503/yes-you-can-get-addicted-exercise

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