Why Should You Be Aware Of Exercise Addiction?

We have all heard that exercise plays a vital role in maintaining health and preventing the development of multiple diseases. In general, regular exercise has both physical and psychological benefits. It provides significant help to patients in controlling weight, managing blood pressure, controlling cholesterol level, and reducing the risk of suffering from heart disease. Psychological benefits of exercise may include improved sleep quality, improved mood, and reduction in the symptoms of depression. 

But, along with various health benefits regular exercise confers, it is also associated with the inherent risk of it is pursued compulsively or to an extreme. Excessive exercise is considered to be a medical condition that is related to various threats to overall health. Excessive exercise can be defined as a maladaptive pattern of exercise that results in both negative physical and psychological consequences.

 Aware Of Exercise Addiction

According to Dr. William Glasser, exercise addiction can be categorized into two - positive and negative addiction.

  • Positive addiction involves a love for an activity and the exercise is scheduled around other everyday activities.
  • Negative addiction involves exercise that overrides everything.

The term addiction perfectly fits a person who engaged in excessive exercise. This is because the term addiction is characterized by a repeated failure to control the behavior despite its consequences. It signifies a behavior that provides relief from internal discomfort such as anxiety.

What are the warning signs of exercise addiction?

Some of the warning signs that may indicate the presence of exercise addiction include:

  • Regular exercising for more than two hours
  • Exercising to the point of pain and beyond
  • Skipping other works to do exercise
  • Exercising even when an individual is sick

What distinguishes everyday exercise lover from someone who is addicted to exercise?

Well, there are certain traits in an individual that indicates if he or she is addicted to exercise. Exercise addiction is based on the following criteria:

1. Withdrawal - When an individual fails to exercise, he or she experiences certain negative effects such as anxiety, problems with sleep, restlessness, and irritability.

2. Tolerance - In order to see the desired results, people suffering from negative exercise addiction increase their time of exercise to a great extent.  

3. Lack of control - An individual who is involved in excessive exercise or negative exercise addiction often experience a lack of control. They are unable to control their attempts to reduce exercise level.

4. Reduced daily activities - Most often, excessive exercise leads to a significant change in daily schedule as it leads to a reduction in other daily activities.

The above mentioned are the most common differences seen in people who are enthusiastic about exercise and people who are addicted to exercise. There are many other traits as well that could cause some significant changes in the quality of life of an individual. Excessive exercising is very much different from exercises that occur at a high frequency. Excessive exercise causes a significant reduction in other activities. Some common signs and symptoms that can occur in people who do excessive exercise are as follows:

  • Stiffness
  • Changes in hormones
  • In girls, altered menstrual cycle
  • Damage to tendons
  • Increased risk of stress fracture.

Exercise addiction experience any illness or pain, he or she ignores the pain and continue to exercise even though it is medically contraindicated. They lose their control.  When an individual with There can be many causes of exercise addiction. Most often, people involve themselves in exercise addiction because they want to control their body weight or when a profession demands them. Also, researchers have stated that many times women to are between the ages of 35 to 50 are often scared of looking old and aging. Hence, they get themselves involved in excessive exercising.

Can exercise addiction affect the brain?

Yes!! Exercise addiction can have a significant impact on the cognitive system in the human body. Multiple studies have stated that there is a strong relationship between exercise and changes in the level of hormones. When exercise is done for a limited amount of time every day, it provides the infinite number of benefits to an individual. But, when exercise becomes an addiction, it causes fluctuations in the level of hormones that increase the risk of complications.

There is a correlation between exercise and the hormone, endorphin. Endorphin belongs to the class of hormones that endogenous opioids. Endorphins are released from pituitary glands into the circulatory system and the neurons that produce endorphins are primarily located in the ventromedial arcuate nucleus, which is associated with the hypothalamus and limbic system.

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Exercise intensity and the duration of exercise are crucial factors that lead to an increase in the concentration of endorphin. It can be said that exercise needs to be performed at above 60% of the individual’s maximal oxygen uptake.endorphins. Stress and pain are considered to be the biggest factors that could lead to an increase in   Evidence have shown that endorphin can interfere with the release of some other neurotransmitters such as dopamine, acetylcholine, and norepinephrine. These neurotransmitters are known to play an important role in keeping the normal functioning of a cognitive system.

How is exercise addiction associated with eating disorders?

Numerous studies have suggested that eating disorders are the most common disorders that are known to co-occur with exercise addiction. It is believed that almost 40% to 50% of people suffering from eating disorders are also suffering from exercise addiction. Negative exercise addiction can be categorized into two types - primary and secondary.

  • Primary exercise addiction indicates the presence of exercise dependence in the absence of an eating disorder.
  • Secondary exercise addiction indicates the presence of exercise addiction in the presence of an eating disorder. When the symptoms of exercise addiction are associated with the symptoms of the eating disorder, it is characterized as secondary exercise dependence.

Primarily, there are three types of eating disorders - anorexia nervosa, binge eating disorder, bulimia nervosa. Anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa are the two eating disorders that are strongly associated with exercise addiction.

In many people, the primary goal in life is to lose weight and this motivation of weight loss becomes extreme, which leads to the occurrence of eating disorders. Anorexia nervosa is a serious and life-threatening disorder that is characterized by starvation and excessive weight loss. People who suffer from anorexia nervosa live with an intense fear of weight gain, even though they are underweight. Self-starvation is the characteristic trait in people having anorexia nervosa.

Bulimia nervosa is another eating disorder that is directly linked to exercise addiction. Bulimia nervosa is a disorder that has a significant impact on the ability to maintain a normal eating pattern. People having bulimia nervosa eat a large amount of food at one go and later try to get rid of that food by indulging in activities like vomiting, excessive exercise, misusing laxatives, and fasting. It is a serious disorder that is associated with many complications and some serious health conditions.

Can genetics cause exercise addiction?

Yes, there is evidence that states that genetics can play a role in contributing to the development of exercise addiction. One mechanism that states the role of genetics in exercise addiction is that genetics play a role in regulating opioid activity. There is no doubt in saying that the endogenous opioid system is a key factor that generates addictions.




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