Recognize the Signs: Could You be Addicted to Exercise?

The desire to maintain a stable weight and live as healthy a lifestyle as possible is a wonderful one, and one of the best ways to do so is to exercise regularly. Exercise is fun, it improves your mood, it helps you sleep better at night, and over time it can even speed up your metabolism.  However it’s important to be aware that, very occasionally, a healthy desire to enjoy regular exercise can turn into a dangerous exercise addiction.


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Enjoying exercise and exercising regularly (even more than once daily) does not make you an exercise addict. An addiction is a compulsion: the desire to do something  over and over again, even when it is not enjoyable anymore, because you simply can’t stop. If you feel that exercise it taking over your life, that you are exercising when you are injured, and that you are canceling important social events in order to spend more time in the gym then it could well be that you are beginning to display the signs of having an exercise addiction.

The Signs and Symptoms of Exercise Addiction

If you have a withdrawn personality type or regularly socialize with equally active, sporty individuals then it can be hard to tell when your determination to exercise is having a negative impact on your life. However here are some of the signs and symptoms of exercise addiction that you simply shouldn’t ignore:

Exercise is the most important thing in your life
If you play your day around your exercise regime, cancel important social events in order to fit in an additional work out and won’t shift around work out time in your schedule (even to attend something important, such as a work meeting or family funeral) then this is a huge sign that exercise is dominating and controlling your life. If when you’re not exercising you’re thinking about exercise, and planning how you can fit in another work out into your schedule, you probably need the support of an addiction specialist.

You can’t cut back on how much your exercise
If you’ve recognized that you’re exercising too much, or perhaps your friends and family have noticed that you’re exercising too much, causing you to try and cut back how much you work out but you simply can’t then this is a sure sign of exercise addiction. Fitness addicts suffer traditional withdrawal symptoms in just the same way that alcoholics or drug addicts do. Returning to exercise because not exercising makes you feel guilty, anxious, or otherwise emotionally uncomfortable should indicate that you have an addictive problem.

You lie about how much you exercise
Lying to your loved ones about the frequency of your work outs is the sure sign that you know you have a problem you simply aren’t ready to admit to yet.

Exercising After Overcoming Exercise Addiction

Exercise plays a vitally important role in living and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and it is integral that everyone exercise for their own wellbeing. However if you have previously suffered from an exercise addiction, or suspect you may have some of the symptoms of an exercise addition , then you may find it particularly beneficial to exercise with a trainer, rather than independently. A trainer will be able to guide you through your work out, teaching you healthy exercise techniques and helping you learn to listen to your body when it is telling you that you are pushing it too far. Having the support of a fully qualified professional can also be helpful and reassuring if you have natural concerns that you may succumb to addiction again when you begin to exercise once more.

After initially working in the health care sector helping people with diet and fitness, Jen Gillan decided to take a career break to get married and start a family, once her two children arrived she decided to take up writing in order to work from home and support her family, she now writes on a range of health and fitness topics – including mental health and wellbeing.


“Know the signs of unhealthy exercise addiction”, Active Magazine

“Clarifying exercise addiction: Differential diagnosis, co-occurring disorders, and phases of addiction”, US National Library of Medicine

“When exercise becomes dangerous”, Psychology Today

“Are you addicted to exercise? The tell tale signs”, Breaking Muscle


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