Do you love to work out? Us too! Exercise can help you de-stress, stay positive during tough times, and, of course, lose weight. And with workouts like anti-gravity yoga and new fitness products to help you get stronger and faster, it can be a total blast too. But there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Exercise can be dangerous when it starts taking a toll on your personal and professional life. To better understand what a fitness addiction really looks and feels like, we reached out to Dr. Ken Neiman, the fitness director at Sober College, an addiction treatment for adults.
Are you overdoing it? 6 statements to consider
Dr. Neiman says, “Like anything that feels good, exercise can be addictive, but it can be tough to tell when you or someone you love has crossed the line into unhealthy territory.” Unlike other addictions, overdoing fitness can be especially hard to spot, since working out is generally a healthy thing to do. He suggests, “If you’re not sure where you (or someone you care about) falls in terms of how truly healthy the exercise habit is, consider the following statements and score them as follows: 1: I strongly disagree, 2: I disagree, 3: I neither agree nor disagree, 4: I agree, 5: I strongly agree.”
- Exercise is the most important thing in my life.
- I use exercise as a way to change my mood.
- Over time, I have increased the amount of exercise I do in a day.
- If I have to miss an exercise session, I feel moody and irritable.
- Conflicts have arisen between me and my family and/or my partner about the amount of exercise I do.
- If I cut down the amount of exercise I do, and then start again, I always end up exercising as often as I did before.
According to Dr. Neiman, scoring 24 or higher means you might be at risk for exercise addiction. Mindi Levins-Pfeifer MSW, who founded Sober College where Dr. Neiman works, explained addiction classification to us. She says that exercise addiction is a process addiction, which means it’s behavior-based (and has nothing to do with chemicals). That said, it can still be super difficult for someone who’s suffering to overcome it. “While no drug is taken, roughly the same neurobiological patterns arise in process addictions like this one,” she explains.
what to do next if you spot the signs
Levins-Pfeifer reminds us that if you do spot an exercise addiction in yourself or someone else you care about, it’s likely that there’s something else going on beneath the surface. “Whether it’s masking pain or something else, it’s really important to get help from a licensed mental health professional if you think you or someone you like is at risk or already suffering,” she notes. “But remember to consider the emotional aspect of the addiction and make an appointment with a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist rather than a fitness expert or dietitian.” If you can pinpoint a problem with your own habits, take the steps to work on healing yourself.
If you’re worried about a partner, friend, or coworker, do your best to show concern with an in-person, heart-to-heart talk if possible. Let your loved one know you admire their dedication to staying fit — or whatever their goals may be — but be straightforward about your concerns, whether it’s frequency, time spent working out, or other factors, like how their mood changes.
With help, someone suffering from an exercise addiction can address the heart of the matter and work on rediscovering balance that’ll contribute to happier and healthier life.
How often do you work out, and how does it make you feel? Tell us on Twitter @BritandCo!
(Photos via Getty)