• Kate Allgood

Recognizing the Subtlety of Exercise Addiction

When Exercising Becomes Over Exercising

Let’s face it, exercise can be weirdly competitive. Athletes know what we’re talking about. One minute there’s a six vs. six friendly basketball game, the next minute tempers are flaring over what started as a few people getting the blood flowing. Competition is a great thing, but the athletic community has seen it get out of hand more than a few times. But, there’s another, more subversive, bit of competition that hides itself better than game-fueled competition. Self-competition can lead to unhealthy exercise practices all too common among the athletes. Pushing past the physical limitations of the body with the goal of constant self-improvement. Giving yourself goals to beat is perfectly healthy, but when it crosses into self deprecating fitness practices leading into exercise addiction, it’s quite the opposite.

Under the guise of health and achieving physical goals, many athletes fall victim to excessive, unhealthy exercise habits that are incredibly harmful. Wanting to eat right, exercise, and feel good is wonderful and highly encouraged, but what happens when the line is crossed into unhealthy exercise obsession? And how can you tell? It’s more common in athletes than you might think. Even though the warning signs differ per person, they present themselves in more than physical ways.

  1. Physical discomfort:

  2. We’ll start with an obvious one. People who are unhealthily obsessed with exercising actively ignore physical limits in the name of bettering themselves. What’s really happening is quite the opposite. Working up a sweat and being sore is a good thing, signs of an active workout. When that turns into progressive physical damage, it’s unhealthy. Human beings experience pain as a bodily warning that we’re exerting ourselves to a certain limit. Aches and growth have their pains, but when over exercising causes chronic, consistent bodily pain, it’s doing harm. We’re resilient, but not invincible. If exercise is making you feel physically bad it’s time to evaluate how, and how often, you’re pushing the demands of your body.

  1. Psycho-social strain:

  2. Like any addiction, unhealthy exercise addiction can strain social relationships. Wanting to spend every waking hour possible in the gym isn’t good for your body (see above point). When this obsession creeps into abandoning human relationships for gym time, warning bells should be ringing. This, in turn, causes personal isolation that can lead to more severe body dysmorphia. Social isolation and body image are a devastating combination, the struggle of which often lead an already unhealthily obsessed athlete to turn up the intensity even more.

These two aspects of exercise addiction branch into every detail, but remain the foundation of the problem. Generally, an underlying psycho-emotional issue connected to negative body image causes an athlete to attempt to fix themselves physically. Finding their progress is never good enough, the frequency, intensity, and malignancy of their physical habits only grow. A vicious two-edged sword that most often begins as something as harmless as loving to exercise.

Of course, exercise is a positive thing. We deserve to be healthy, happy, and to feel good. Moderation is always the key, especially with our bodies. Because our worth is never defined by the image of someone else, nor is it in physical appearance. Breathe, eat, workout, be happy, and stay healthy because you’re beautiful.

The information in this post was provided by EDCare. Please find their information below. If you or a loved one is suffering from an Eating Disorder please seek professional help, you are not alone.

Mission: We offer patients, their families, and health care professionals over 15 years of eating disorder treatment experience. We understand the recovery journey can be difficult and scary, and know that the right support can bring success. We continuously remind our patients of their worthiness, empower them to begin to let go of the eating disorder identity, and connect with their authentic selves. We are dedicated to helping them experience the success of long-lasting recovery.