As our friend Coxy says, who would get addicted to exercise? It’s bloody painful. But we’re betting a fair few of you have passed on a night out and headed to the gym. Be honest. Take the test and see if you could be taking things too far.
Addiction, it’s a word we bandy about a lot – I’m totally addicted to salt & vinegar square crisps, pictures of Ryan Gosling’s torso etc. But as we all know, addiction is a serious issue. See drugs, alcohol, gambling, porn… and exercise. Yep, all the good stuff.
While exercise addiction is a well-recognised addictive behavior that can have a dramatic effect on your ability to cope with everyday life, it’s not always recognised or taken as seriously as it should be. After all, exercise is good for you right?
So what is exercise addiction and how do you spot it?
‘Exercise addiction is an abnormal reliance on physical activity,’ says Anna Waters, sport psychologist at Pure Sports Medicine.
‘While exercise is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle, there’s a fine line between a love of getting sweaty and an obsession, which can lead to emotional and physical problems such as:
♦ mood swings
♦ low self-image
♦ extreme fatigue
♦ muscle wastage
♦ poor sports performance.
Ironically all areas exercise usually improves.
‘While your average exerciser may get a buzz from hitting the gym or burning up the running track, to someone who is exercise-dependent working out becomes everything. They prioritise exercise ahead of all other aspects of their life – work, friends, family… They carry on when ill, injured, or worn out, despite knowing it could have a damaging effect on their body. And if they are forced to take time off then they suffer withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety and depression.’
Why do people get hooked?
For some exercise addiction exists in its own right, while for others it can be associated with an eating disorder. According to Anna, exercise addiction is often the result of difficulties in other areas of people’s lives.
‘People may exercise to relieve stress or achieve an endorphin rush or runner’s high,’ she says. ‘And the more they exercise, the more they have to do to achieve the desired effect.
‘Control is another major factor. People often see exercise as a way of gaining control over their mood and body and enjoy the sense of structure that a strict exercise regime brings.’
So how much is too much?
There’s no set amount of exercise that classifies you as an addict, however researchers at Nottingham Trent University have devised the following test to highlight any issues.
Take the test*
Read the questions and choose the number that most closely matches your agreement with the statement. Then add up your scores.
What are your results?
- A score of 24 or higher suggests you are at risk of exercise addiction.
- 13-23 suggests some symptoms of exercise addiction.
- 6-12 suggests no exercise addiction symptoms.
So, what do you do, if you think you may be training too much or are worried about a friend who seems to have set up camp in the gym? ‘It’s a good idea to seek professional help as soon as possible,’ says Anna. ‘An exercise psychologist can help you work on overcoming an exercise addiction and uncover an underlying causes.
If you think you may have a problem you can find a reputable psychologist on the following websites:
Health Professionals Council www.hpc-uk.org
British Psychological Society www.bps.org.uk
Discover how personal trainer Rebecca overcame her exercise addiction here
*Research Authors: Terry, A., Szabo, A., Griffiths, M. (2004). The Exercise Addiction Inventory: A New Brief Screening Tool. Addiction Research and Theory. 12(5): 489-99.