Exercise is a release. It can feel good. In moderation, exercise is a healthy and necessary pursuit but as with all addictions, in excess the ramifications can be damaging and far ranging.
Exercise can be addictive in the following ways:
This addiction can cause harm in any number of ways, from damaged tissue, weakened joints and immune system, abuse of performance enhancing or anabolic drugs, eating disorders and damaged relationships.
Exercise addiction can be motivated by many things such as the need to escape, desire to feel good about oneself or as a coping mechanism for the challenges of life.
It is more difficult to identify than some addictions e.g. substances, as there is no apparent or noticeable intoxication and as a result the progression can sometimes be more severe.
Compulsive exercise may also appear less problematic to the sufferer and those that surround him/her but the consequences can be equally as destructive.
The obsession or compulsion to exercise despite negative consequences is what distinguishes the addict. The need to exercise even when rest is required, relationships are strained, whilst feeling tired, sick or recovering from injury. These are all signs of an excessive abnormal pattern.
Withdrawal is an easily identifiable aspect of this addiction. The inability to exercise (or some interruption resulting in an incomplete workout) can result in rage, panic, apathy, low mood, restlessness and feelings of guilt.
A variety of therapeutic interventions have proven useful in the battle against compulsivity.
Although there is no panacea, there are a number of tried and tested techniques which, when used in combination, achieve positive results.
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