For a person with "exercise dependency" working out has become an obsession which dominates their life much like an addiction to drugs or alcohol.
A compulsive exerciser is different from a serious athlete in three fundamental ways. The serious athlete is:
- Working out towards a specific goal, event or season
- Looking for performance-related results from their training (beyond weight loss/management)
- Taking breaks and/or decreasing in their training when they are off-season
A compulsive exerciser is doing none of these.
Exercise addicts begin to experience symptoms of withdrawl within 24-36 hours when they are not able to exercise due to circumstance beyond their control. These symptoms include:
Exercise addicts are most often women between the ages of 35 and 60. Typically, these women started working out in adulthood to lose weight and get in shape. They tend to have a history of issues with low self-esteem and are perfectionistic by nature. Working out has given them a sense of power and self-confidence they hadn't experienced before.
Sharon Stoliaroff, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist based in Chevy Chase, MD, developed this checklist to screen for addiction to exercise. Rate yourself as honestly as you can on the checklist below:
Although exercise in and of itself is a positive thing, good for both body and the mind, obsessive exercise means the individual is no longer in control of their behavior. Exercise has become a focal point of their lives to the exclusion of other things.
If you answered yes three or more of these items you may be addicted to exercise. Consider speaking with a counselor/mental health professional to make sure that exercise is just one part of a healthy, balanced life.
(survey source: Volume 18, Number 6, Running & FitNews The American Running Association)
Geralyn Coopersmith, MA, CSCS is the National Director of the Equinox Fitness Training Institute, an educator, exercise physiologist, certified personal trainer and author of Fit and Female: The Complete Fitness & Nutrition Game Plan for Your Unique Body Type.
Geralyn has been featured many TV shows, including: The Dr. Oz Show, The Today Show, CBS Morning Show and Fox and Friends. She has been quoted in:The New York Times, Shape, Self, Fitness, People, Us, Vogue, Elle, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, Oprah.com, Yahoo.com and more.