The positive effects of exercise on our physical and mental wellbeing are regularly portrayed by health professionals and the media alike, with regular physical activity known to have many benefits for not only our muscles, bones and primary organs, but also powerful mood-boosting qualities.
It may seem peculiar that an activity deemed so useful for our overall health could potentially have a negative impact on our lives, but exercise addiction is a very real compulsive behavioural disorder which can have dangerous consequences for your body and mind.
If you believe that you or someone you care about has an unhealthy relationship with exercise which having an impact on everyday life, Priory’s history of treating various types of addiction means we can offer comprehensive rehabilitation treatment programmes. Your free initial addiction assessment, which takes place at one of our hospital sites, enables our consultants to devise a personalised recovery plan including behavioural therapy, helping you to regain control of your life. Treatment for exercise addiction can take place as part of our 28-day Addiction Treatment Programme, with the length and type of treatment that you receive, dependent on your unique condition and the severity of your addiction.
If you have an exercise addiction, this means that you regularly have an uncontrollable urge to exercise beyond a healthy amount. The basic enjoyment of exercise and the knowledge that you are improving your health is overtaken by a psychological dependence on exercise which can result in injury and illness.
Particularly common in triathletes and runners who require an extensive amount of endurance exercise to stay competitive, exercise addiction can also affect people suffering from eating disorders. If you have exercise addiction, co-existing eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia may also be diagnosed, although you can have the addiction independent of other disorders.
Diagnosing exercise addiction
Because exercise is viewed in such a positive light in society, it can be difficult to determine when you are exercising compulsively, or simply training at a level that may be required for a marathon or long-distance race you hope to compete in. For this reason, addiction experts and studies have concluded that exercise addiction should only be diagnosed when it has a significant impact on other aspects of your life, such as physical injury, social and work problems that are caused because of an unmanageable desire to exercise.
This page was reviewed by Stephanie Chick (FDAP) in July 2018, and is scheduled to be reviewed again in July 2020. To view all Priory exercise addiction specialists, please click here.