Are you addicted to exercise?
When you think about health and fitness, your mind naturally jumps to positive images; enjoying the outdoors, exercising with mates, eating fresh and wholesome foods – the list goes on! When you think about addiction however, there’s a definite negative connotation. That’s why, when I heard about exercise addiction I was both confused and intrigued. Believe it or not, exercise addiction is a real condition and according to Dr Heather Hausenblas, author of The Truth About Exercise Addiction, it’s on the rise.
What is exercise addiction?
Dr Hausenblas told byrdie.com.au that exercise addiction works in the same way that drug and alcohol addiction does. “Like substances ‘hijack’ the brains of individuals hooked on alcohol or drugs, the compulsion to exercise can hijack the exercise addict’s emotional reward centres.” Essentially, the exercise addict will begin to crave the physical exertion of exercise and will fear that if they do not get their ‘fix’ they may become anxious, irritable, fatigued, depressed or experience physical pain such as headaches.
Recognising exercise addiction
Exercise addiction can start out with an individual enjoying a completely normal and healthy fitness routine. However, once the person stops being content with his or her workouts and starts to crave more to feel satisfied, an addiction can develop. Dr Hausenblas says the condition can be classified as serious once someone begins to let the craving for exercise interfere with his or her social life. Unlike eating disorders, exercise addiction is not linked to how the individual looks. They are not necessarily striving for a slimmer or ‘fitter’ frame but rather, craving the high of exercise itself.
Here at bh we often turn to social media for #fitspo. Whether it’s celebrity workouts or fit mums – apps like Instagram and Facebook can be a great source of motivation and inspiration for health and fitness. For an exercise addict however, turning to this type of content can be damaging. Dr Hausenblas explains that while social media #fitspo is not a cause of exercise addiction; it can certainly exacerbate an existing condition as it plays into the sufferer’s distorted notion of exercise.
Dr Hausenblas thinks that modern western cultural attitudes towards health and fitness could be contributing to the rise in exercise addiction. “It almost encourages — if not, for exercise addicts, fuels — fitness-inclined individuals to approach exercise with all-or-nothing attitudes, consider exercise as a source of suffering rather than pleasure and health, and also focus too heavily on their appearance (using how they look as a marker for progress rather than how they feel or what they can do).”
Have you heard of exercise addiction? What do you think about the links between social media and this kind of addiction?