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Is It Possible to Become Addicted to Exercise?

If there is such a thing as a good kind of bad habit, exercise addiction might seem like one. The words "exercise" and "addiction" don't often appear in the same sentence, although some scientific research indicates that those who suffer from addictive behaviors, such as drinking and smoking, could be more susceptible to becoming "addicted" to the endorphin rush most gym-goers get after an intense workout. While exercise is sometimes referenced as being a catalyst for overcoming bad habits, too much exercise can have a negative impact on the human psyche. Even though exercise addiction is not considered a legitimate health disorder, it is a derivative of compulsive behavior which could cause dysfunction within a person's life.

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Recommendations for Healthy Exercise

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week for all classified-healthy individuals, which equates to approximately 30 minutes of continuous exercise at least five times every seven days. This general principle is a solid guideline for those simply trying to stay fit, but a decent percentage of gym-goers strive to do much more than the bare minimum. It's important to understand the difference between being addicted to exercise and being committed to exercise. Exercise addiction occurs when the user, or gym-goer in this particular case, becomes dependent upon the feelings of euphoria that typically result as a product of exercise in order to function.

"Exercise Addiction" is a Maladaptive Behavior


The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders does not currently consider maladaptive behaviors, such as those that cause a person to neglect the body's natural need to rest, as concrete mental disorders. Exercise addiction does not simply cause a person to become rest negligent, though. It has also been associated with eating disorders in rare cases. Addiction to exercise is subjective perception. While maintaining a healthy tendency to exercise, it's sometimes difficult to determine if you have legitimately become addicted to working out. For this reason, most research, including a study cited by CNN, indicates that a small percentage of people actually endure negative side effects of exercise addiction. Negative side effects may include increased susceptibility to injury due to overstimulation of muscle tissue, joints, ligaments and tendons, and constant exhaustion as a result of neglected rest.

Don't Be Afraid to Exercise Often

The concept of "exercise addiction" can be perceived as a slippery slope in that exercise is a key component of a healthy lifestyle. Although a small percentage of people who frequently engage in exercise activity may be susceptible to becoming dependent on endorphins in order to function or "feel good" about themselves, the likelihood of you becoming negatively impacted by too much exercise is slim. The natural "high" that most gym-goers experience as the product of a successful workout will not cause you to withdrawal if you do not exercise enough, rather, your dependency on being in the gym all the time could potentially alter personal or work relationships. Exercise is more commonly referred to as a mechanism for overcoming bad habits as opposed to becoming an addiction in itself. Consult a physician if you're truly concerned about working out too often. Otherwise, continue to exercise in an effort to enhance your physical fitness level and overall well-being.

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John Shea is a team sports fanatic and fitness aficionado. His work has been published across a wide platform of online audiences in the realm of health and fitness. His passion for fitness is exemplified in his writing, as he aims to help readers improve their overall well-being.



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