When used moderately to maintain physical and mental health and/or when used in conjunction with an appropriate amount of nourishment, exercise has many incredible benefits. But in the case of exercise addiction, yes, too much of a good thing (exercise) can yield negative consequences. Exercise addiction impacts thousands of people and can be conceptualized like other processes and substance addictions.
The following nine warning signs are presented to help you recognize if your relationship to exercise might be getting out of hand:
#1 – You feel you need more medicine/therapy/treatment/rehab/detox due to your continued exercising.
It’s not uncommon for those who compulsively workout at dangerously high levels of intensity or who maintain an exercise schedule for several hours per day during the week to feel like they need some treatment.
This may come in the form of a movement disorder rehab program. This physical therapist helps you focus on a more structured approach to working out or even medical intervention if necessary.
#2 – You exercise compulsively.
In other words, you tend only to be able to think about the next time you’ll get to work out. In some cases, it can become an all-encompassing thought that you’re thinking about constantly throughout your waking hours. And when you don’t have access or aren’t able to go on with your plan at the usual time and place, do you feel some sense of withdrawal?
Just like any other addiction, the more you keep to your exercise routine year-round, the harder it is to break away from its grasp.
#3 – You consider your workout an essential part of your life.
Many things in life are essential, whether personally or because they hold great social significance. However, if an activity meant to be a nice treat you get for yourself has begun to outweigh everything else in your mind and heart, then there may be problems. Some people might say that working out is their number one priority, which isn’t healthy at all.
#4 – You put way too much emphasis on how your body looks.
Exercise addiction can be exacerbated by an underlying eating disorder, which compounds the problem. For some, it’s all about looking good or wanting to meet some social media standard of beauty – not because they love how they look, but because this is what they think needs to happen for them to feel ‘worthy.’ Physical fitness goals are one thing; physical fitness obsessions are another. Make sure you’re able to practice moderation when it comes to personal appearance goals.
#5 – You have trouble setting limits.
When you can’t set limits on your exercise schedule, even if it means neglecting family members and friends, ignoring general responsibilities, skipping work opportunities/events/meetings…this may indicate a more severe problem.
#6 – You frequently compare your body to other people’s.
When we spend time comparing ourselves to others, especially when we consider their looks and how much they work out, it’s a recipe for disaster. Pay attention to moments when you feel compelled to make comparisons between your physique and someone else’s appearance – this may be a sign that things have gotten out of hand. In the end, you’ll never be satisfied with yourself or where you are in life if you can’t stop these negative thoughts from creeping in.
#7 – You avoid social events because you don’t want anyone seeing your flabby body.
If going out with friends means potentially being seen in clothes that show off your less attractive parts, you may need to re-evaluate your priorities.
#8 – You feel guilty when you miss a workout.
When it’s time for an activity that doesn’t involve physical exertion, do you often feel bad about not working out? If so, this is cause for concern! It means that the exercise itself has become an essential part of your life, and everything else is secondary or simply unimportant.
#9 – Your friends/family members express their concerns.
Addiction to any substance or process can be tough on close relationships. If there’s a problem, you should want to know about it! When your loved ones see something in your behavior pattern that concerns them, they’ll usually say something – which is why it’s important to pay attention to what others are telling you.
#10 – You push yourself too hard and often get injured. I’ve written about the dangers of over-exertion in exercise before. One of the most severe risks that can occur when you’re working out is exertional rhabdomyolysis – which occurs when your muscles break down and release their contents into the bloodstream. This can cause kidney damage (and sometimes even death) if left untreated. It’s not something to play around with either; while some people may be more prone than others for various reasons, this condition can happen to anyone who doesn’t listen to their body or stops exercising when they feel pain…or else pushes themselves beyond what they should be doing.
Conclusion: Whenever you take up a physical fitness habit, it’s important to be aware of the risks and recognize that moderation is the key. Trust me; there are plenty of us here who can relate! If you feel like your exercise addiction is taking over your life and ruining your relationships (and/or beginning to impact your health), I will encourage you to reach out for help.