Because exercise is socially acceptable and stressed as vital, exercise addicts are much harder to diagnose than other addicts, according to Kerrie Kuntz, certified personal trainer and CEO of Fusion Fitness Inc. Determine whether you have a problem by taking an honest look at your intentions. If you are committed, it’s healthy. If you are compulsive, it’s unhealthy and you may need to seek therapy. Certain signs should raise a red flag.
Excessive Time Frames
If 30 minutes of daily moderate physical activity keeps you healthy, yet you exercise for two or three hours a day, your parameters are irrational. Perhaps you are fanatical about burning a certain number of calories or logging unrealistic miles. This degree of exercise can have a negative effect on health and lead to injury, illness and depression. Running four or five miles a day is fine; however, running 20 miles a day – unless you’re a trained athlete – is over the top, says Andrew Schuth, a certified personal trainer in Los Angeles, California. Your body needs time to recover from physical activity.
Altered Life Plans
Most healthy exercisers plan workouts around their daily obligations. If you are an addicted exerciser, you plan your life around exercise. You may give up former interests because missing a workout causes so much anxiety. If you forego special events, social gatherings or a day at the office in exchange for a workout at the gym, your exercise commitment crosses the compulsion line.
If you force yourself to exercise through illness and injury, you could be obsessed. When you are exhausted, your body is telling you to slow down -- and you should listen. Fatigue is a sign of overtraining. Kuntz says exhaustion and physical pain from workouts can trigger personality changes, making you uncharacteristically irritable, agitated or verbally offensive. You may be too tired to spend time with family members – even your spouse or children. You may tell yourself that you’ll feel better once you start moving.
Unrealistic Body Image
Those who are obsessed with body image may be more concerned about how they look than any health benefit they may receive from exercise. Compulsive exercisers are typically preoccupied with appearance, weight and muscle mass, judging and scrutinizing themselves unfairly. They rely on the scale and the tape measure to tell them how much exercise they need. If you work out an excessive amount of time just to lose a pound or an inch, you are being unreasonable.
A sure sign of any addiction is when the behavior has a negative effect on your personal life. Ignoring loved ones or cutting off contact with friends so you can exercise are signs of exercise obsession. If the majority of your conversations and actions focus on diet and exercise, your family may express concern that your life is out of balance. They might even inquire about eating disorders such as non-purging bulimia, in which you exercise to extreme after eating.
- Kerrie Kuntz, Certified Personal Trainer and CEO; Fusion Fitness, Inc.; Illinois
- Andrew Schuth; Certified Personal Trainer; Los Angeles, California
- Brain Physics: Exercise Addiction and Dependence