Addicted to Exercise
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Addicted to Exercise

Exercise is good, no surprise here. But too much exercise can be bad. Exercise addiction is real and can be harmful.

Exercise Is Good…

Exercising is good. That’s in no way a bold statement, we all know that frequent exercise is good for both body and mind. It increases cardiovascular condition, allows your blood to take up more oxygen, which, in turn, is good for your brain, and so on. The advantages of regular exercise are plenty. But can you overdo it? Can one exercise too much, giving the body too little time to recuperate? As in all behaviors, moderation is key. Both too little and too much exercise can be dangerous. Of course, in our western society, the number of people that has too little exercise is far greater than those who have too much of it. Nevertheless, exercise addiction exists and can be quite harmful.

How Many?

Recent research suggests that around 1.5% of those that exercise regularly are addicted to it, and 35% shows some signs that could be interpreted as symptoms of addiction. For example, when someone does sports to avoid a restless feeling and is no longer able to lessen activity without that feeling returning, this could be considered an exercise addiction.

The people who suffer from exercise addiction, exercise every single day and, on average, around 7.5 hours a week, but sometimes a lot more (athletes train a lot more, but are are supported by professionals, to ensure that their body can cope with it and recover appropriately). Men do this mainly to get more muscular, while women mostly want to lose weight. Both sexes sport excessively to adhere to a beauty ideal. Most sport addicts know that they are dependent on exercise, but see no real harm in this.

So What?

An indeed, if exercising is so good for you, what’s the harm? The problem is that people who train excessively handle their own body irresponsibly. They often fanatically follow a low calorie diet, which makes them balance on the edge of an eating disorder, and are not slowed down by injury. Even their social life begins to show cracks under the strain of all the exercising. Sports are often chosen over family or work-related affairs.

Just to be clear: Sports is good for you, as is paying attention to what you eat. Obesity and lack of exercise are serious challenges to the people in so-called developed countries. But one has to be careful not to tip the scales towards the other side, where the strain put on the body becomes too much.


  • Hale, B.D.; Roth, A.D.; DeLong, R.E. & Briggs, M.S. (2010). Exercise dependence and the drive for muscularity in male bodybuilders, power lifters and fitness lifters. Body Image. 7(3), pp. 234 – 239.
  • Radboud University Nijmegen, News. (March 29, 2011). Sport addiction is not healthy.
  • Smith, D.; Wright, C. & Winrow, D. (2010). Exercise dependence and social physique anxiety in competitive and non-competitive runners. International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology. 8(1), pp. 61 – 69.

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Comments (3)

Everything in moderation including exercise. You have pin pointed some important issues to examine about addictive behavior in exercising. Well done. Promoted since I am out of votes.

interesting, the body releases endorphins when exercising, that is like a feel good drug

I'm reminded to go back to my exercise routine.