When Does a Fitness Routine Become an Exercise Addiction?

Woman running in a marathon

In most of the ways it’s presented on TV and in movies, exercise seems to only ever be a good thing. Pictures of attractive men and women working on their six-pack abs and smiling to one another are commonplace, and certainly working out can be both physically rewarding and beneficial for your mental health.

But when does the commitment to working out cross a line into compulsive behavior? How much is too much when it comes to exercise, and when should you worry about your friend or relative who always seems to be in the gym?

Signs of Exercise Addiction

There are several things to watch out for—signs that could mean a once healthy commitment to working out and eating right has transformed into a full-fledged exercise addiction. If your loved one keeps working out even after an injury, they may not simply be pushing through the pain. They may instead be getting into a cycle of excessive exercise and developing an exercise addiction.

Going to the gym every day and losing interest in other activities is another troubling warning sign of exercise addiction. Most trainers recommend a day or two off each week when embarking on an exercise regimen. Skipping those rest days can be physically counterproductive and a sign of a growing compulsion.

Moderation Is Key

As with everything else in life, moderation is the key. Working out can be a net positive when performed in moderation. Working out several times a week and spending time at the gym can be a great way to benefit your health, and working out can encourage balanced eating as well.

If, on the other hand, the exercise becomes excessive, it can turn into an addiction. Just as a sensible diet plan can give way to dangerous bulimia and anorexia, a well-intended commitment to working out can progress into compulsive exercise.

The same compulsions that drive eating disorders and addictions can also turn working out into compensatory or even compulsive exercise. Anything can become a compulsion, including activities that are normally good for our bodies. No matter what’s motivating the exercise, it is important to know the difference between a balanced fitness routine and an exercise addiction.

If you are worried that you or someone you care about has an exercise addiction, help is available. The more you know about exercise addiction and its dangers, the quicker you can seek professional help to get back to a balanced fitness regimen.