Physical activity feels good and it’s great for your health. It can reduce your risk of developing chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes, strengthen your bones, muscles and joints, and can even help with certain mental health conditions, such as depression.
While exercise has clear benefits, it can cause problems if your love of working out crosses over into an addiction.
If you constantly cancel activities with friends or family in favour of exercise – so you plan your life around your gym workouts – you might have a problem. If you exercise in spite of pain or injury, and feel obsessively guilty when you miss a session, it could be that you’re addicted to exercise.
And it’s likely our increasingly image-focused culture may be partly to blame.
Exercise addiction is not a clinically recognised mental disorder, but researchers have developed a variety of questionnaires and other tools to get an idea of its prevalence and who might be at risk.
Around one in 200 people in the general population have an exercise addiction. But our new research shows among people who exercise regularly, factors including their attitudes towards exercise and perceptions of themselves mean more than one in ten could be at risk of becoming addicted.
Committed or addicted?
The concept of exercise addiction is fairly novel and still requires more evidence to define its specific characteristics.
Whether exercise becomes an addiction can be related to the amount and frequency of training, appropriate nutrition, and motivation for exercising.