Imagine the hardest workout you have ever done, would you ever do that workout 2-3 times a day for 2-4 hours? Now imagine you had no choice, your brain was telling you that you had to do it; your addicted. People can become addicted to exercise. Attitude is what separates healthy vs. unhealthy exercise. An addict’s exercise becomes unhealthy and leads to physical injuries when it encompasses their mood and dictates their life. According to American Fitness Journal, “25% of serious athletes over train and are possible candidates for being addicted to exercise. A study was done at the University of Kansas, “out of 5000 students 30% could be classified as having an exercise addiction. ” Exercise is such a huge part of today’s society that this addiction is often overseen and almost encouraged. To maintain a healthy society people need to be informed about exercise addictions and the problem needs to be treated by seeking help and maintaining a proper workout plan. Exercise is not a remedy for everything, it has its risks. “Exercise addiction is a compulsion to exercise to reduce anxiety, body discomfort, and appearance” (Cumella).
According to an article by Bernard Harmon in the American Fitness journal, “exercise becomes an obsession when it takes over your life and disrupts social and occupational functioning. ” Having an exercise addiction can be both a physical and physiological problem. A patient with an addiction to exercise will use it as a “defense to prevent feelings of inadequacy and self-criticism” (Alvarado). In the article “Too Much of a Good Thing,” by Jim Carpenties, he says there are two categories that an exercise addict can fall under: muscle dysmorphia and overtraining syndrome.
Muscle dysmorphia is when a person’s mind becomes excessively preoccupied with building muscle, while overtraining syndrome patients are obsessed with cardio workouts and preventing obesity. Griffin writes, “The thought of a rice cake will make them run 5 miles to burn it off. ” Exercise addiction was initially recognized as a symptom of anorexia and bulimia. “The difference between eating disorders and exercise addictions is that eating disorders are done secretly while an exercise addiction is done with indifference and failure to recognize the problem (Cumella). Patients confidently continue working out because everyone around them is doing it. Our society praises and promotes exercise, which aids the obsession to workout to achieve the perfect body and can easily lead to an addiction. As said by Kristof in his article “Addicted to Exercise? ” in the New York Times, “An addiction is neurological consequences when the brain’s pleasure circuits respond. The pleasure center of the brain becomes numbed so the addict needs more to generate a satisfaction.
To prove exercise can be an addiction “Boston researchers showed an increase in anxiety, depression, anger, and lower self-esteem when they stopped a group of runners for 2 weeks” (Alvarado). Kristof also writes, “Exercise triggers release of chemical endorphins, enkephalins (the brain’s version of opium), and endocannadinoids (the brain’s version of marijuana). ” According to Behavioral Health Management, “Like drugs the exercise raises these endorphin levels and patients experience feelings of well-being but decrease their awareness of emotional and physical pain while working out. If you are addicted to exercise it begins to define you and your daily routine is scheduled around your workout. Alvarado tells a story of one girl who, “At 2 a. m. was in her room, running in place. ” Missing one day of exercise will cause a patient trauma.
Addicts will exercise 2-3 times a day for 2-4 hours. In the case of overtraining syndrome, “addicts will count their calories in order to burn them off” (Harmon). Griffin’s article in the Irish times says, “Most modern gym equipment now has calorie counters which can further fuel the obsession. Since exercise can be an addiction it has many health related issues. Exercise addictions are fueled by physiological problems but lead to physical problems. In Carpentrie’s article he says, “The endorphins begin to be replaced by chronic pain. ” Many people with overtraining syndrome will also have an eating disorder, which leads to unhealthy weight levels and the breakdown of bones and muscles. Chronic joint pain and tendon injuries are very common with muscle dysmorphia. People with muscle dysmorphia also tend to take steroids, which release unnatural chemicals into your muscles.
In Karen Asp’s article “Addicted to Sweat,” she writes that, while under the pressure of an exercise addiction, “people will continue working out while sick or injured risking the chance of permanent disabilities. ” According to an article by Roy Wallack in the Health Source, “excessive exercise in general damages DNA, decreases testosterone, increases cortisol (muscle wasting hormone), hemolysis (destruction of red blood cells), and amenorrhea (failure to menstruate). Excessive exercise can also cause body mutations and increase the risk of cancer because of all the free radicals being released into you body. Harmon tells a story of a woman who became addicted to exercise in his article, “Are you an Exercise Addict? ” He writes: Mitchem used to run twice a day and lift weights twice a day during the week. On the weekends it was three times a day. She would exercise through pain, blisters, and an upset stomach.
“All I thought about was working out and nothing else seemed to matter,” said Mitchem, who lost 47 pounds in six months in 2005. Other symptoms of overtraining are “respiratory infections, sleeplessness, depression, weight loss, anxiety, lethargy, irregular menstrual cycles, and increased resting heart rate” (Carpenties). Scott Tinley ran 100 miles and biked 300 miles every week and eventually blew his adrenal gland, which is responsible for releasing hormones and helps with kidney function” (Wallack). Something needs to be done to help and prevent exercise addictions and maintain a healthy society. In Cumella’s article he writes about the 5 main factors that need to be approached when treating an exercise addiction. The first factor is medical. Patients should seek professional help from doctors and/or physical therapists to treat any health issues their addiction has caused.
The next factor is nutrition. To stay health the body needs proper food intake. This can be done by seeing a nutritionist and setting up a healthy diet with 5 meals a day (3 large meals and 2 snacks). Another factor is a cognitive behavioral approach. This is used to help patients change their attitudes towards exercise and teaches them not to use exercise as a punishment for unhealthy actions. The fourth factor is self-esteem. “To recover from addiction patients will need assistance developing self-concepts based on attributes apart from their appearance” (Carpenties).
Motivation is a very important part of the self-esteem factor. The last one is setting up a healthy exercise plan. “An exercise addict does not need to stop exercising but instead confront the feelings that make the exercise compulsive” (Alvarado). Just like every other addiction there is no single treatment, each solution will take time and effort and the addiction will be a continual battle. The good thing is that exercise addictions have been recognized and there are treatment plans and professionals to help control the problem.
A proper work out plan will prevent exercise addictions and decrease the risk of the physical health problems, leading to a healthier society. “Stress” on the body is one of the main causes for physical injuries while exercising (Asp). Addicts will continue to work the same body parts over and over again, day after day. Recovery is extremely necessary not only to prevent injury but also to improve physical fitness and build muscle. Our bodies were not made to do numerous repetitions of heavy lifting or run long distances for hours. According to Mark Sission, author of the popular health site marksdailyapple. om, Aerobic activities should replicate actions that are preprogrammed into our genes by our hunter-gatherer ancestors: sprinting (to catch or escape from animals) and striding (tracing game or gathering food), which would include fast walking, hiking, light jogging, moderate cycling and other relatively unchallenging activities. “Moderate exercise for 30-60 minutes will trigger good endorphins, which prevent osteoporosis, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, depression, and strengthens muscles, bones and the immune system” (Carpenties).
Wallack writes that, “the body works the same whether musculoskeletal or cardio vascular, it needs work and recovery. ” A healthy workout plan will consist of stretching, cross training, and rotation between upper and lower body workouts. Cardio should be done 4-5 times a week switching everyday between a high intensity and a low intensity workout. Swimming is a great muscular and cardio workout that puts little to no stress on the body. Muscular training should be a high intensity workout, which should not be done everyday unless you are rotating between upper body and lower body each day.
If a full body muscular workout is done it should be paired with rest and recovery the following day. A diverse workout plan allows an addict to continue exercising with positive results and without destroying their body. The compulsion to exercise is an addiction that defines some physically active people. The addiction includes all the same hallmarks as substance addictions. Similar to all addictions, exercise addicts are prone to many health issues and they can become injured inside and out.
The goal of treatment for exercise addictions is to get the addict mentally stable with their appearance and confidence and then get them back in shape physically. Exercise is a very important part of staying healthy when used with the right goals and the proper type and amount.
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Health Source – Consumer Edition. Web. 22 Mar. 2012. CARPENTIER, JIM. “Too Much Of A Good Thing. ” American Fitness 29. 1 (2011): 14-16. Health Source Consumer Edition. Web. 22 Mar. 2012. Cumella, Edward J. “The heavy weight of exercise addiction: treating this often-overlooked disorder cansave patients’ lives. ” Behavioral Health Management Sept. -Oct. 2005: 26+. Expanded Academic ASAP. Web. 22 Mar. 2012. Fighting the urge to run working out in the gym for hours is common among those addicted to exercise. alison healy looks at how such obsessions are linked to eating disorders. 2000, Oct 23). Irish Times, pp. 10-10. Retrieved from http://search. proquest. com/docview/309299253? accountid=4031 Harmon, Kevin Bernard. “Are You An Exercise Addict?. ” American Fitness 27. 1 (2009): 52-53. Health Source – Consumer Edition. Web. 22 Mar. 2012. Kristof, Nicholas. “Addicted to Exercise? ” The New York Times 30 Oct. 2011, SR sec. Proquest. Web. 19 Mar. 2012. <http://search. proquest. com/docview/900944818? accountid=77487>. Wallack, Roy M. “Too Much Of A Good Thing. ” Joe Weider’s Muscle & Fitness 71. 4 (2010): 80-86. Health Source – Consumer Edition. Web. 22 Mar. 2012.