Are you suffering from EXERCISE OBSESSION?

Being dedicated and passionate for your goal is not wrong, but when fitness is the only thing on your mind and it becomes compulsive, you might be entering dangerous territory! When following a healthy lifestyle it is important to make sure it does not turn into an unhealthy obsession. Find out more about what constitutes Exercise Obsession.

What is exercise obsession?

It is an unhealthy addiction with any kind of physical exercise despite the negative consequences. It is often a result of body image disorder and / or eating disorders.

Exercise addicts show the following traits:

  • Engaging in exercise even though it causes physical harm.[3]
  • Engaging in exercise despite wanting to stop.[3]
  • Engaging in exercise in secret.[3]
  • Engaging in exercise to the detriment of professional and personal life.[7]

Disorders associated with excessive exercise:-

1.Anorexia athletica (obligatory exercise) – This is when an individual feels compelled to exercise beyond the point of benefitting one’s body. Individuals will participate in athletic activities regardless of pain, injury, illness, etc., and will try to arrange his/her lives in order to maximize workout time.

2.Exercise bulimia – Refers to when an individual has binge eating sessions, followed by periods of high-intensity exercise.

3.Body dysmorphic disorder – This is when an individual is obsessed with parts of their body and perceive them to be different or odd. These individuals will create highly regimented routines in order to improve their perception of the “flawed” body part.

Exercise Obsession leads to:

  • Stress/anxiety: Harmonious, disciplined and consistent exercise has more productivity, satisfaction than trying to strive for hours in gym for perfection which will leave you exhausted, stressed and depressed.[6]

  • Social isolation: Exercise obsession leads to avoiding parties and get-togethers.
  • Steroids and drug use: Compulsive exercise may drive you towards steroids and unhealthy options[6] to watch your physique change over a short period of time.
  • Eating Disorder: Fear of getting fat leads to eating disorders in some people [2] who will starve by curbing appetite.
  • Injury: Obsessed people tend to over work and not give enough rest  to their body and end up in injury.

Healthy vs Obsessive exercise

Exercise reduces levels of cortisol regulating stress responses, while increasing levels of endorphins and other neurotransmitters that make people feel better. Exercise can also help improve sleep habits. It alleviates symptoms of depression and anxiety [8]. So, what distinguishes a gym enthusiastic from an obsessed one?

  • Lack of Control: Increasing the time and amount of exercise in order to feel accomplished.
  • Withdrawal: In the absence of exercise the person experiences negative effects such as anger, irritability, restlessness and sleep problems.
  • Time: A lot of time is spent in researching / reading about exercise.
  • Reduction in other activities: As a direct result of exercise,  social / occupational / recreational activities are no longer a priority.
  • Injury prone: Continuing to exercise even when it  is creating physical, psychological problems.

Myths about exercise obsession

  1. Myth 1 -Exercise obsession is a positive addiction.

Fact: Going overboard has negative effects like any other addiction.

  1. Myth 2 – Over exercising gives faster results.

Fact: Great things take time. Lactic acid which builds up in your bloodstream during strenuous exercise can lead to nausea, weakness, cramps, and exhaustion [9]. These effects are your body giving you warning signs to stop.

  1. Myth 3- No pain, No gain.

Fact: Any thing beyond capacity can lead to injuries. Injuries from exercise can cause setbacks and permanent damage.

Self assessment questions to check if you are obsessed with exercise

  1. Is Exercise the most important thing in my life?
  2. Am I escaping from responsibilities because of exercise?
  3. Have I increased the amount of exercise I do in a day regardless of my ability?
  4. Do I feel moody and irritable if I miss exercise?
  5. Can I stop exercising till I recover from my injury?
  6. Am I resting enough?
  7. Am I eating enough?

Answering these questions is important, however do not draw any conclusion of tagging yourself as being an addict. Sometimes as a beginner you might need to focus on exercise so that you can make it a part of a healthy lifestyle. Once you start experiencing the benefits, you can use the questions above as a guide to help work on any loose ends.

Overcoming the obsession

  1. It is very important to be psychologically prepared to get through this, by admitting the problem.
  2. Restricting your workout durations.
  3. Improving food relationship. Hypocaloric diet or starvation is a complete no.
  4. Engaging in other recreational activities or exploring other interests to keep mind off the gym.
  5. Spending time with loved ones or going for a vacation.
  6. Meditating and changing habits to enhance self-control.
  7. Resting enough to help the body regain strength.
  8. Taking expert advice if it is getting difficult to cope up with the issue all by yourself.

However, the amount of time it takes for a person to overcome exercise addiction depends on the severity of the condition.


Research [4] speculates that 15 percent of exercise addicts are also addicted to cigarettes, alcohol, or illicit drugs and an estimated 25 percent may have other addictions, such as sex addiction or shopping addiction.

So if exercising leaves you anxious, unhealthy and depressed it is time to think it over. Exercise not only changes the body, but also the mind, attitude and mood. Regardless of the miles you logged on a treadmill or the lbs. you lifted, “YOU” are worth so much more than that.

Exercise because you love yourself, not because you hate who you are.

About the Author: Manini Pati is an INFS scholar and has completed Foundation and Expert certification from INFS (Institute of Nutrition and Fitness Sciences). She is a health nut and enjoys reading health and fitness related articles and books. Manini wasn’t a fan of the fitness industry until she experienced what nutrition and exercise did to her body and after that there was no turning back.



2. Nina Dittmer , Corinna Jacobi , Ulrich Voderholzer.

3.Marilyn Freimuth, Sandy Moniz, Kim.

4.Steve SussmanNadra LishaMark Griffiths.

5.Aviv Weinstein, Yitzhak Weinstein.

6. Mia Beck LichtensteinRasmus Oestergaard Nielsen,Claire Gudex,Cecilie Juul Hinze,  Uffe Jorgensen.


8.  Saskia Heijnen, Bernhard Hommel, Armin Kibele,and Lorenza S. Colzato

9Cairns SP.


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