Exercise addiction

Running can be a health-enhancing behavior, both physically and mentally. It can be a “positive addiction,” giving you a great deal of life satisfaction.

Sometimes, however, recreational athletes get so enthusiastic about their sport that it grows beyond what is beneficial. This would mean that, in spite of adverse consequences, the person would continue to exercise intensely on a regular basis.

It’s what we call “exercise addiction” or “exercise dependence,” and like any negative addiction, it can have harmful effects and it happens the most with running.

Think about the following questions:

  • Do you place running higher than any other important activity?
  • Does your running interfere with your work or school activities?
  • Does your running cause relationship problems?
  • Do you run in spite of health concerns, or injury and pain?

You say that you feel “compelled” to run. Do you feel withdrawal symptoms after 24-36 hours without running? In other words, if you can’t run, do you get agitated, irritable, feel guilty, feel bloated or have nervous muscle twitches?

Negative exercise addiction can cause sleep disturbances and difficulties in concentration. Sometimes people who are exercise dependent are also prone to eating disorders.

I think that, because you are asking, there is something concerning you about the importance running plays in your life.

See if you can begin to replace a little of your running. Relinquish some running time to other activities that would also make you feel good. What is it about running and your past sports that you like? Try to duplicate it with other endeavors.

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“Positive addiction” means that you can successfully integrate a healthy daily running habit with other aspects of your life – such as friends, work, and family. Negative “exercise dependence,” on the other hand, controls you and eliminates other choices in your life. Your other responsibilities and relationships suffer because of your running.

You need to think about all this. Only you can determine which it is.