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Exercise Addiction

Exercise Addiction

The message is relayed constantly: "Get some exercise; stay healthy." But what about when exercise becomes an obsession? 

What is Exercise Addiction?

Exercise addiction is a behavioral addiction in which one becomes obsessed with exercising in excessive quantities. Usually the addiction is spurred by chemicals in the brain during exercise that create a pleasurable feeling. While the term “runner’s high” is often used to describe this feeling, it is not just running that can produce it. Any form of exercise can lead to this pleasurable sensation. An addiction study, in fact, found that when this sensation was artificially produced in rats, they became obsessed with the feeling so much that they forgot to eat or drink. With humans, the consequences are not typically this dramatic, but the addiction can lead to deprivation or disregard of other things in life.

How Much is Too Much Exercise?

Due to the fact that exercise is actually encouraged for a healthy lifestyle, exercise addiction can be hard to prevent or recognize. Most doctors, though, recommend that the average person exercise for at least 30 minutes each day. While this number is flexible, and many exceed it, an exercise addict typically works out for hours each day. If they miss a day, they feel guilty and will work out even harder the next day.

Signs and Symptoms of Exercise Addiction

Like most addictions, an addiction to exercise will begin to consume one’s life. The several signs and symptoms of this addiction include:

  • Neglecting friends and family in favor of exercise
  • Exercising even when sick or tired
  • Exercising to the point of injury, and continuing to work out despite the injury
  • Skipping school or work to exercise
  • Experience of guilt or withdrawal when unable to exercise

Consequences of Exercise Addiction

The consequences of exercise addiction can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Untreated injury
  • Difficulty relaxing
  • Trouble in personal relationships


If you believe you are addicted to exercise, seek help. Your doctor can refer you to an expert who can help you figure out a way to exercise in a healthy way.

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