What We Can Learn from Exercise Addiction

Exercise Addiction | Pledge to Fitness |unhappy woman sweating in gym

Addiction is a concept that gets thrown around a lot–you’ve got your chocoholics, and your workaholics, not to mention the fact that the average American drinks more than 3 cups of coffee per day (which means some folks are drinking more). Are people literally addicted to these things? Well, it’s hard to say…
Like work and coffee, exercise is something we might joke about being addicted to, but the similarities to drug addiction are actually pretty startling. Like drug abuse, exercise addiction (EA) involves dependence on it and/or obsession over it, and someone might keep engaging in it even though it’s causing them harm and they want to stop.
It’s important to note (and this shouldn’t come as a shock) that most people are not at risk of exercising too much. But it’s worth looking at how this phenomenon happens so that we can appreciate just how beneficial a healthy exercise routine can be.


What is Exercise Addiction, Anyway?

Healthline.com defines EA as an unhealthy obsession with physical fitness and exercise. It’s currently classified as a “behavioral addiction” in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), and its link to eating disorders or body image disorders is well-documented. People with EA may use exercise to punish themselves for (what they consider) overeating or become anxious or depressed when they can’t work out, so they head to the gym even when they’re sick or injured.
An important piece of the puzzle is the effect of exercise on the brain. Vigorous exercise causes the release of endorphins inside the body, which function like natural opioids. This effect is often called “runner’s high.” Ironically, former addicts of various harmful substances often use exercise to chase a similar feeling to their abandoned drug of choice.


Comparing EA to a Healthy Workout Program

Exercise addiction corrupts so much of what is great about working out:

Addicted Healthy
  • You feel tired all the time and are unable to sleep.
  • Your energy levels boost as your heart and lungs get stronger and you sleep better.
  • Your workout results diminish.
  • You cancel fun activities and plan your life around working out.
  • You fit your workout into your schedule and don’t stress if you miss one workout.
  • You feel a guilt or a fear about not working out.
  • You WANT to work out because you see and feel the benefits mounting.
  • You’re working out to escape a problem or stifle emotions that never truly get resolved.
  • You’re working out to reduce stress and feel calmer throughout the day, and it works.
  • Your friends and family never see you anymore because you’re always at the gym.
  • Your friends and family see you in a whole new light, healthier than you’ve ever been.


Put Exercise in its Proper Place at Pledge To Fitness®

Keeping fitness in the appropriate context is the key to avoiding exercise addiction, and for that matter, it’s the key to not exercising enough. Exercising can and should be fun, but it’s a means to an end, which is to enjoy your life–being happier, healthier, sexier, more confident–not to overtake your life. At PTF™, we can help you do that.

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