Exercise addiction is rare but real. For every person who over exercises, there are more than a hundred people who rarely exercise. Usually people who exercise regularly get along better at home and at work.
To investigate how commonly exercise has an adverse impact, researchers surveyed the families of 1,500 members of a running club. The vast majority of families reported that they thought exercise was a good thing, and less than 5 percent reported that running was a cause of conflicts or problems.
Years ago, exercise physiologists thought that you could become addicted to exercise, much like you could addicted to morphine. Vigorous exercise causes an increase in your levels of endorphins. The name endorphin comes from combining the two words endogenous (made in your body) and morphine, and these chemicals act on the same receptors as narcotics. Endorphin levels go up with most bouts of intense physical activity. Scientists used to think that endorphins accounted for a runner's high and explained why someone could get addicted to exercise.
Most intense workouts cause an increase in endorphin levels. One of the exercise studies showed that weight lifting causes your endorphin levels to go up, similar to the increase from running on a treadmill. Our bodies make endorphins whenever we exert ourselves, and the higher levels probably help us better tolerate discomfort. Imagine that you are one of your ancient ancestors and running away from a wooly mammoth. You want to be able to keep sprinting and ignore any physical pain, at least until you are safely back in your cave. That is where endorphins come in handy; they help block out physical discomfort. Despite higher endorphin levels, most people do not feel high after or get addicted to exercise.
When you work out hard, your body needs extra calories to repair muscles, joints, and bones-tissues that you are using during your workouts. Without enough calories and building blocks, your tissues will weaken, and you will end up with an injury.
Exercise is considered an addiction when it prevents normal interactions at home or work. Just like any activity, people can be consumed with exercising: the more they exercise, the more they need to exercise. People with this problem may find it impossible to stop training. Even though they become injured, and constantly strive to increase the intensity and length of their workouts.
How much is too much? Exercise addiction may be your problem if it pushes everything else in your life aside-family, friends, and other responsibilities. Table below lists additional questions to see whether you might be an exercise addict. Many times, exercise addiction is a clue to deeper problems, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder or depression, and professional help may be needed.
Are You an Exercise Addict?
You might be an exercise addict if you answer yes to any of the following questions:
1. Your favorite video is Buns of Steel.
2. Your medicine cabinet contains ibuprofen, naprosyn, Bengay, and horse liniment.
3. Twelve pairs of athletic shoes line your closet floor.
4. The last time you missed exercising was during the Carter administration.
5. You think its fun to be in pain.
6. Your dogs are named Nike and Adidas.
7. Your wedding was held at a road race, and Gatoroid and Powerbars were served of the reception.
Your head is healthiest when you exercise. Regular physical activity allows clearer thinking, reduces feeling of depression, lessens anxiety, and can correct insomnia. For those with mild to moderate depression, treatment with exercise is as effective as antidepressant medications. All types of regular exercise appear to provide these mental health benefits, and finding an activity that you enjoy may be more important than achieving a particular heart rate during training.