Are You Addicted to Exercise?

Race DayMany runners catalog their workouts,  visit sports nutritionists and follow nutrition plans, read up on the latest gear, and constantly tweak their training schedules. Is this a good thing? Sometimes it is not.

In the 2014 edition of Current Pharmaceutical Design, Aviv and Yitzhak Weinstein report that three percent of the population suffer from exercise addiction, but 25 percent of runners do.

Although you may not think it, exercise addicts exhibit some of the same behavior as addicts of other more well-known addictions, including compulsive, dependent behavior.

The Current Pharmaceutical Design article reported that missing one day of a five-day-a-week workout training program can result in serious withdrawal symptoms, such as depression and fatigue. Other symptoms include trouble missing just one day of exercise; exercise interfering with work, school or relationships; and exercise developing a punishing quality–if you don’t do it, you’ll skip going out with friends or skip a meal, etc.

Most people, as they should, look at exercise as a positive and a benefit to their health. However, addicts view extreme exercise as a positive, which it is not. Because of this, many don’t even realize they are addicted.

Because “runner’s high” is a real, actual thing, you must be careful to avoid falling into the addiction trap. Here’s what you can do:

Develop other hobbies to connect with people. I know from personal experience runners tend to surround themselves with other runners because we’re like-minded people. I had to expand my world by developing new interests. I couldn’t just stay in the running world; it wasn’t good for me socially and emotionally.

Learn relaxation techniques. Try adding in yoga and meditation. Although you might think these are just more exercises to do, they can help counterbalance the intensity of running and help you mentally.

Try running with a group. If you’re a solo runner, this may help you seek social support and discover a love of running and not an obsession with it.