01 Feb What’s the line between exercise addiction and dedication?
So we know thatexercise, combined with a healthy diet, is good for us. But too much of a good thing can be bad – exercise included.
It is possible for a person to become addicted to working out, running, cycling, etc., but how do we distinguish between dedication and addiction?
Addictions, although diverse, cause very different individuals to act in similar ways. Addiction is a chronic disease of the brain; it is a mental health issue. Addiction affects a person physically, psychologically, socially and spiritually. Whether the person is addicted to a drug, alcohol or in this case exercise, he or she uses to feel a certain way. The more they use, they harder it is to obtain the desired feeling.
Being dedicated to exercise involves setting goals and planning ways to achieve them. Dedicated people may work out 3-5 times a week, but they are able to maintain their health and do not suffer from chronic injuries. Someone who is dedicated will push hard during practice or at the gym, but they also know when to stop. If they do become injured, they give themselves a break. They feel good after working out and can acknowledge their hard work.
Most importantly, while exercise is important to someone who is dedicated, it is not the only thing that matters to them.
Conversely, someone who is addicted is constantly thinking about exercising. They have a compulsive need to exercise, and that need overrides other important things like their health, relationships and career. They will often become extremely thin or muscular. They will also suffer from injuries or become unhealthy, but they will continue to work out. Exercising doesn’t bring a sense of joy anymore, but they become anxious if they aren’t able to do it. Even if they are exercising every day, they won’t feel like it’s enough. In short, people who are addicted to exercise lose control.
There is still a lot of uncertainty about why people become addicted to exercise, but it has been linked to certain personality traits including obsessive-compulsive disorder, high-pain tolerance, high self-imposed expectations and narcissism. People (runners in particular) sometimes cross the line because they initially feel good when endorphins are released in the body during exercise, and so they chase that “high.” Eventually, they become obsessed. Participants involved in sports that focus on body size (dance, figure skating, ballet, gymnastics, distance running, body building) may be at higher risk, too.
If you feel like you’re crossing the line, talk to someone or seek counselling while you are still able to recognize the signs.