There is a lot of research out there on behavioral addiction, including exercise addiction, as it is a very common behavioral addiction associated with body dysmorphia and eating disorders. But what about athletes do they fall under any sort of exercise addiction patterns? One of the problems in answering this question is that the term ‘exercise addiction’ is widely used and there are many different terminologies used to describe excessive exercise syndrome; such as ‘exercise dependence’, ‘obligatory exercising’, ‘exercise abuse’, and ‘compulsive exercise’. In many studies targeting these terms and their research, it is believed that ‘addiction’ is the most appropriate term to use because it incorporates both dependence and compulsion. Exercise addiction should be classified within the behavioral addictions category due to the common symptoms those suffering experience. There are changes in mood, tolerance, withdrawal symptoms, relapse, etc. How can something so good for us turn into something unhealthy and harmful? And what about athletes, they engage in excessive exercise, are they addicted? Let’s take a closer look at these common questions.
Although athletes spend hours and hours each day training and preparing for their sport or event, and make personal and family related sacrifices for their training most of them are not categorized as exercise addicts. Why? Because the excessive exercise is clearly a by-product of the activity being their job and livelihood. Not to say that some are not, but as a whole they are just committed to doing their job and doing it to the best of their ability. For us non-Olympic athletes out there how can we tell the difference between healthy enthusiasms such as exercise, and addictions? The simple way to look at it is that healthy enthusiasms add to life, but addictions take away from it. When something has turned into an addiction there usually characteristics such as obsession over how much exercise, how often, and at inconvenient and unrealistic times. The obsession breeds the compulsion to not miss a workout, or if one is missed to try and fit two in later to makeup for it.
Being aware of your intentions behind practicing a healthy and balanced lifestyle is a good place to start, as you are exercising to take care of your body, not punish it. If you or someone you love is having a hard time with daily functions, and all commitments and responsibilities in their lives revolve around exercise, it is probably something to look at. Achieving a healthy balance in our lives seems to be what we are all constantly striving for, it can be easier said than done, but it is possible.