By Rosemary Marchese
Editor, B.A. Applied Sci (Physiotherapist)
The title may sound confusing but it’s true. There are times when ‘fit’ can actually be a huge health hazard. If you’re spending increasing hours exercising and are sneaking out at every opportunity to fit in more and more miles, then you may be losing your perspective as to what’s healthy and what’s not. You may indeed be an exercise addict.
Exercise addicts have an unhealthy approach to training. There tends to be a ‘more is better’ mentality, when a current recommendation for healthy amounts of exercise is about 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day. That doesn’t mean that two hours of training per day makes you four times as healthy. It also doesn’t mean that you should exercise when you are sick or injured. There comes a point where ‘a lot’ is too much. Just as you can have or do too much of a good thing, exercise is no exception.
Exercise is unconditionally healthy for the mind, body and soul, right? No! There is a tipping point.
If you’re an exercise addict, then you may actually be training the same amount as some elite athletes who are not exercise addicts (although they can be too). But the difference between you and the athlete is the attitude towards training. If you’re an exercise addict, then you’ll tend to organise your life around exercise rather than your exercise around your life. There’s a really unhealthy relationship between attitude and exercise in addicts. This can be even more so if you tend to exercise alone, which is why runners and gym goers are top of the list for being at risk.
Addicts are high achievers and their life is generally regimented. Their routine can include eating a set number of meals per day, calorie counting and early bed times to ensure time for a longer morning exercise session. There’s no time for relationships and divorce is a big risk! Exercise addicts also tend to exercise at inappropriate times, such as during thunderstorms!
If you think you may be an exercise addict, the good news is that it can be self-regulated. A gradual return to a more healthy approach to exercise is possible, but first you have to recognise that you are an exercise addict, or at least at risk of becoming one.
- miss important social obligations and family events to exercise?
- have few other interests anymore, including time with friends, to make more time to train?
- feel irritable and depressed if you miss a workout?
- only feel content when you are exercising, or within the hour after exercising?
- like exercise better than sex, good food, a movie or most or all other things in your life?
- work out even when you’re sick, injured or exhausted, telling yourself that you will feel better after the workout?
- use any additional time that appears in your schedule to work out, even if you’re meeting your weekly exercise plan?
- have little or no time for family or friends?
- have a history (or a family history) of anxiety or depression?
- feel fit but not feel great?
- have to exercise every day to feel ‘normal’?
- prioritise exercise over everything else in your life?
- have an obsessive relationship with food; for example, calorie counting everything and following a really strict eating plan?
If you answered ‘yes’ to one or more of the questions above, then you may need to re-assess your health and your attitude to exercise. If exercise addiction continues, then, just like any other addiction, there are potentially serious consequences, including:
- loss of menstruation, which increases the risk of osteoporosis
- injury and illness which is not always easy to recover from
- destruction of other parts of your life, including important relationships.
Do some soul-searching to find out why your exercise commitment has become so extreme!
If in doubt or you need personal help, then book an appointment with your GP today.