Regular exercise and trips to the gym are a common part of many people’s routines. Most of us agree that exercise and physical activity are one of the many ways we can support ourselves and stay healthy.
While it is important to get regular movement and exercise into our lives, there are times when exercise can become an unhealthy addiction and obsession.
Exercise addiction has not been acknowledged and accepted as a mental health disorder, however, researchers have explained what it is, why it's harmful, and some common signs.
An article from VeryWell Health states, “Researchers describe it as a behavioral addiction or excessive behavior that results in adverse consequences. Similar to other addictions, a person with the addiction will be aware of the negative impacts of their behavior and consider these consequences, but they proceed with exercise anyways.”
A few examples of common signs that the article gives include:
Feeling guilty or anxious if you do not exercise
Exercising even when it is inconvenient or disruptive to your normal schedule
Running out of time for other things in your life because you need to exercise
Exercising even when you have injuries or when you are sick
Skipping work, school, or social events to exercise
Although only about 3% of the population in the United States is affected by exercise addiction, it’s important to understand its dangers and warning signs. A relationship with exercise should be healthy. We should want to work out to take care of our bodies. It shouldn’t be seen as another dreadful task to check off our to-do list each day. Exercise has an endless amount of mental and physical benefits and it's an activity that we all should try to fit into our lives, but it should be done for the right reasons.
“It can also be a great way to be social, have fun, and de-stress. However, when the desire and commitment to exercise become obsessive, compulsive, and even addictive, the negative consequences outweigh the positive,” VeryWell Health states.
In my own life, if I begin to feel like exercise and working out is becoming a chore or something that I don’t enjoy doing, I take a step back and ask myself what my motivation to workout is. There have been times in the past when I would work out even if I was not feeling well, would wake up early, or stay up late to make sure I had time to exercise. It’s important to notice this and take a step back before the relationship with exercise becomes toxic.
As time has gone on, if I feel that I want to work out just to change my appearance, I have to remind myself that that should not be my goal. I have learned how to have a healthy relationship with exercise. I choose to exercise to take care of my mind and body. Not to change it. Exercise is an activity that I do to bring myself joy, not a task I have to check off my to-do list each day.