We promote regular physical exercise because it is beneficial physically and psychologically. However, too much of anything is bad and excessive exercise can also have adverse physical and psychological effects. Exercise dependence, also known as exercise addiction, is a behavioural addiction, it is characterised by an excessive preoccupation with exercise. The prevalence of exercise addiction ranging from around 3% to over 40% of the population depends on the demographic of people tested. For instance, the prevalence of exercise addiction of people in a sports club is higher compared to that of in the entire population. Currently, there're still no universally recognised, distinct criteria separating exercise addiction to healthy habits or compulsory disorders. Researchers and medical professionals nevertheless constructed general guidelines to identify exercise addiction. Below is one of the more recognised ones as reviewed by Freimuth et al 2011 (International Journal for Environmental Research and Public Health).
- Tolerance: increase the amount of exercise in order to feel the buzz and accomplishment;
- Withdrawal: feeling anxious, irritable and sleepless in the absence of exercise;
- Lack of control: unable to reduce the level or amount of exercise for a period of time;
- Intention effects: exceeding the amount of time devoted to exercise beyond originally intended on a consistent basis;
- Time: a great deal of time is spend on preparing, engaging in, and recovering from exercise;
- Reduction in other activities: reduced or non-existent social, occupational and/or recreational activities as a direct result of exercise;
- Continuance: continue to exercise despite knowing that it is exacerbating or creating physical, psychological and sociological problems.
Remember, the purpose of this article is to raise awareness, it is not meant for self-diagnosis. See a health care professional if you feel that you might be addictive to exercise and it's affecting you negatively.