Exercise addiction is complex. Some people can spend several hours per day in the gym and not be addicted because the balance of their lives remains in sync; exercise does not control them. For others a reliance on exercise can be built up over time.
By it’s very nature, exercise is a calming, feel-good pastime. The increased blood flow increases the production of so called happy hormones such as serotonin and dopamine making us feel pumped up and positive. As is the case with any addiction, over time we need more and more of the substance in order to achieve that initial high and this is when exercise addictions can begin to form.
Studies show that some people are just biologically predisposed to become more obsessive about a hobby or pastime and others may use exercise as a form of escapism to avoid confronting painful emotions in other areas of their lives such as managing low self esteem.
Exercising too vigorously or too often can send your body into a catabolic state in which the tissues and muscle fibre in the body begin to tear and break down.
Of course this consequently has a knock-on effect on the body’s organs, muscles and immune system. Because many legitimate exercise addicts will also exercise to the point of injury then continue to exercise before they’ve allowed themselves to heal, they can ultimately end up with serious injuries and become malnourished and exhausted.
Aside from the physical health risks, it can also be mentally and emotionally draining, particularly when you can see that other areas of your life are failing but feel powerless to stop it. In this case cognitive behavioural therapy or other forms of counselling may help to to readjust your thought processes and evaluate your priorities.
There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach when it comes to a safe amount of exercise. Each of us have different metabolism, fitness levels and capabilities.
A general rule of thumb is that 30-45 minutes of daily cardio is safe and that the body should be given adequate time to replenish and repair itself following a high intensity workout. For those who have suffered from exercise addiction, it isn’t a case of going cold turkey. To read more click here.
Addiction and behavioural addictions will be discussed at the Australian and New Zealand Addiction Conference 2016, themed Alcohol – Other Drugs – Behavioural Addictions, Prevention, Treatment and Recovery will be held on the Gold Coast from the 19 – 20 May 2016. To view the high quality Conference Program CLICK HERE.
To register your attendance at the conference CLICK HERE.
Hosted by The Australia and New Zealand Mental Health Association promotes and encourages participation from all parts of the sector towards a shared appreciation of what medical, psycho-social and peer-based approaches can offer, through the experiences of service users, clinicians, and researchers alike.