We all know that exercise is good for us as it improves our cardiovascular health, increases dopamine levels which leads to better emotional health, can be relaxing and fun. Exercise is a good way to improve flexibility, strength, and endurance.
But have you ever felt like a failure for skipping a day of working out, followed by intense emotions of guilt and negative self-talk. It is important to be aware of the signs which determine the fine line between determination and potential exercise addiction.
What distinguishes the everyday gym enthusiast, elite athlete, or runner from someone who may be addicted to exercise? Housenblas and Downs have developed a criteria which identifies substance addiction. Behaviour addiction can be very similar in signs to substance addiction which is what we will cover in this article.
Exercise addiction can be identified by the following factors:
- Does increasing the amount of exercise lead to a buzz feeling which can be achieved only if the amount of exercise is increased each time?
- Do you feel anxious, irritable or restless if you have missed a workout session?
- Do you feel ‘out of control’ when it comes to taking a day off, leading to exercising even when you feel exhausted?
- Do you feel like exercise has taken a toll on your life outside of working out, for example less time with family, friends, engaging in other activities?
- Do you think about exercise when you are meant to be relaxing, essentially leading to consciously ‘recovering from exercise’?
How can we distinguish the difference between frequent exercise and exercise addiction can be very tricky. You could still get that dopamine rush from achieving something you have really worked for, but normal exercise should not preclude negative consequence such as physical harm or time taken away from other important activities.
Addiction to exercise has not been fully researched however there are a few theories why it occurs, the main one being the Endorphin Hypothesis. It suggests that because when we exercise we release endorphins which are naturallu produced by our body. However when we start exercising regurarly, our body decreases the natural production and that individual will need to maintain that balance by exercising.
If you think you may be struggling with this, treatment approaches are available including cognitive-behavioural principles used to manage behavioural addictions.
Author: Bogomila Tosheva