Hidden Addiction Exercise



Everybody wants to be fit. Everybody wants to be healthy, and exercise is one of the best ways to improve our health and fitness. Many of us look forward to our evening workout or run. We get up extra early just to put in some time at the gym. How much time should we spend exercising? How much is too much?

Compared to other addictive behavior, exercise addiction affects a relatively small number of people. The effect of exercise addiction, however, can be much more profound. Roughly 30 in 10,000 people are exercise-addicted – that number jumps for subgroups of different athletes. For instance, the prevalence of exercise addiction jumps to almost 50% of marathon runners and almost 52% of all triathletes. For those afflicted, nearly all of the free time that they have outside of working or sleeping is dedicated to the gym.

Exercise addiction mirrors the symptoms of substance abuse addictions. The addicted cannot resist the call to exercise and a tolerance grows over time, causing the need to exercise even more. The addicted consistently rationalize and overlook negative consequences to their health and relationships. Those with an exercise addiction have a 25% chance of having some other form of addiction, be it smoking, drinking or another behavioral addiction, such as sex. There is a significant, direct relationship between exercise addiction and eating disorders. Consequences include: damage to joints and muscles, stress fractures and severe bone loss, scarring of the heart muscle leading to abnormal heartbeat or heart failure, problems with menstruation, and cognitive distortion.

Symptoms of exercise addiction:

  • Missing a workout makes a person irritable or depressed.
  • A person works out even when sick or injured.
  • Exercise becomes the only way to “escape.”
  • Workouts start to interfere with relationships.
  • Other public activities or hobbies are “skipped.”
  • Workouts are continually extended.
  • Exercise loses the element of enjoyment or fun.

If these symptoms seem familiar to you, don’t panic. Exercise is a great thing for the body in moderation.

Those with an exercise addiction have a 25% chance of having some other form of addiction, be it smoking, drinking or another behavioral addiction, such as sex.

If you feel like you have a problem, rate yourself by responding to the following with yes or no.

  1.  I have missed important social obligations or family events in order to exercise.
  2.  I have given up other interests to make time to work out.
  3.  Missing a workout makes me irritable and depressed.
  4.  I only feel content when I am exercising.
  5.  I like exercise better than sex, good food or a movie.
  6.  I work out even if I am sick, injured or exhausted.
  7.  In addition to my regular exercise schedule, I will work out more if I find the time.
  8.  Family and friends have told me I’m too involved in exercise.
  9.  I have a history (or family history) of anxiety or depression.

If you agreed with three or more statements on this list, you may be at risk for developing an addiction.

A tip to help yourself deal with your addiction is to make a modest schedule and do your best to stick to it.

Exercise is a great thing for the human body and can increase your life satisfaction; it’s only when taken too far that it becomes dangerous to your health and mind.

If you feel that you, or someone you know, may be addicted to exercise, call American Addiction Centers at 866.840.8224. If you think that you may suffer from dual addictions, contact a mental health professional or a professional who deals with eating disorders.


Addiction Experts. (2018). Causes of exercise addiction and how to treat it. Addiction Experts. Retrieved from addictionexperts.com/types-of-addiction/exercise-addiction/
American Addiction Centers. (2018). Exercise addiction treatment programs. Addiction-Treatment. Retrieved from addiction-treatment.com/research/exercise/
Miller, K. (2017). 10 common signs of exercise addiction you should know. Self. Retrieved from self.com/story/10-signs-of-exercise-addiction
Schreiber, K., & Hausenblas, H. (2015). How many people are addicted to exercise? Psychology Today. Retrieved from psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-truth-about-exercise-addiction/201504/how-many-people-are-addicted-exercise
Slager, E. (2018). 9 warning signs of exercise addiction. Walden Behavioral Care. Retrieved from waldeneatingdisorders.com/9-warning-signs-of-exercise-addiction/
Stoliaroff, S. (2018). Know the signs of unhealthy exercise addiction. Running and Fit News, 18(6). Retrieved from active.com/articles/know-the-signs-of-unhealthy-exercise-addiction


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