Can You Get Addicted To Exercise?

While regular physical activity is a healthy and normal part of everyday life, there is such a thing as exercising too much. In fact, excessive exercise can turn into a debilitating addiction (via Shape). Classified as a behavioral addiction in the DSM-5, exercise addiction is characterized by an unhealthy obsession with exercise and physical fitness. People who are addicted to exercise are driven by a persistent compulsion to workout. For many, this means working out multiple times a day for hours at a time, often at great cost to their physical health.

People with an exercise addiction often push themselves to the point of injury and will continue to workout despite being in pain. If they are somehow unable to exercise, however, they will often experience mental and emotional distress, like depression, anxiety, and other withdrawal symptoms. Depending on the severity of the addiction, they may even plan their entire lives around their workouts, missing work or school and canceling social plans.

The warning signs of exercise addiction

If you think you or someone you know might be addicted to exercise, there are a few general warning signs you can keep in mind and watch out for. For instance, if your workouts begin to affect your personal relationships, it might be a sign that you have an exercise addiction (via Psych Central). Spending more time working out at the gym than with your family and friends can negatively impact your relationships and cause you to isolate yourself from others. If you would rather exercise than spend time with your friends or your spouse, you might have an unhealthy relationship with exercise.

Using exercise as a way to escape is another important warning sign. If you use exercise to avoid certain aspects of your life or distract yourself from your personal problems, you might have an addiction to exercise. Talk therapy is a healthier and more constructive way to address your emotions and the circumstances surrounding them. 

Furthermore, you might have an unhealthy relationship with exercise if it's no longer fun or enjoyable to you. Extending your workouts and pushing yourself can make exercise feel more like a chore. If you have to force yourself to workout, even when you don't feel like it, you might not be exercising for the healthiest of reasons.