There are both positive and negative addictions to exercise and while being extremely motivated is great in terms of health and fitness, you have to be careful not to cross the line to a compulsive disorder that can damage your body.
AskMen.com states that training addiction is a very real thing for many men, and if it isn’t addressed quickly enough, it can lead to overtraining syndrome, eating disorders or “bigorexia” – an obsession with anything that has to do with getting bigger, whether it is reading books on training and nutrition or spending vast amounts of time in the gym.
Signs you could be suffering from exercise addiction:
- Turning down dates in order to work out.
- Avoiding social situations for fear of eating foods that may interfere with training progress.
- Social isolation.
- A feeling of general worthlessness if you have not completed your workout for the day.
- Only allowing yourself to eat after you have exercised.
- Feelings of depression .
- Reduced drive to engage in activities formerly enjoyed.
- Exercising for extended periods on a daily basis or several times a day.
- Feeling anxious if a workout is missed.
- Scheduling your day’s events around your workout session.
- A fear of becoming injured and having to miss a workout.
Negative effects of exercise addiction:
Injuries can result from not allowing muscles sufficient time to recover which will damage them and break them down, thus slowing your metabolism and seeing an increase in fat rather than a decrease. Sufferers may also turn to steroids in search of the ever-elusive ideal body, which can prove detrimental to long-term health. Many exercise addicts will also suffer from depression.
If the disorder is caught early enough, you can reassess your idea of healthy and work out a weight loss and fitness programme to suit your target. Your exercise routine should be balanced to ensure a full-body workout and you should also be maintaining a balanced diet. Strength training as well as cardio and aerobic workouts will help you reach your target. Always remember to stretch before and after your workout to ensure your muscles are warm and you won’t do yourself any injuries. If you are well into the disorder and it has become such an ingrained habit that all of the previous solutions don’t work, you should speak to a fitness professional. There may be underlying causes that you just aren't seeing. Often, issues like this go deeper than surface level. A counsellor can help you figure it out so you can break free from this dangerous cycle.
Source: Paul Russell, Exercise Addiction, ptonthenet.com, October 2006.