Addicts describe reaching a point in their addiction where they feel sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. It is this that motivates them to quit. When people manage to escape alcohol or drug abuse they will often be full of determination to find a new healthier way of living. They will be living a life that is the complete opposite of what they previously experienced. This often inspires them to become interested in physical fitness. This healthy pursuit can bring great joy to people in recovery. It can also provide many mental and physical benefits. Problems can arise if the individual becomes too obsessed with this type of activity. They may begin to neglect other areas of their life. If they are not careful, they can find themselves back in the midst of addiction. Physical fitness is usually a positive habit, but it can lead to physical and mental harm when taken to extremes.
Like other forms of addiction there will be signs that people have developed an unhealthy relationship with intense physical activity. These are some of the most common signs of exercise addiction:
* The individual experiences a great deal of guilt if they miss an exercise session
* People begin to spend more and more time devoted to exercise
* They may even attempt to hide the extent that they are exercising
* The individual feels annoyed if any event interrupts their exercise schedule
* This activity begins to interfere with family and work commitments
* If the individual is questioned about the amount they exercise they will become defensive
* The person is unwilling to cut down on the amount they exercise
* They may lose interest in other activities they used to enjoy
* The individual exercises at odd hours (for example, the middle of the night)
* The person misses important events because of their desire to exercise
* They spend an excessive amount of time thinking about physical fitness
* When people are overdoing it, they begin to suffer the symptoms of overtraining syndrome
* When people miss a couple of sessions of their fitness routine, they become convinced that their health is impaired
The individual will not usually experience all of these symptoms. Like other forms of addiction, things begin to deteriorate over time.
When people exercise too much they can develop a condition known as overtraining syndrome. The symptoms of overtraining include:
* Symptoms of depression
* Feeling tired most of the time
* Muscle soreness that does not seem to go away
* Deteriorating mental health
* Reduced heart rate variability. This is worrying because reduction of this variability has been associated with the increased likelihood of experiencing a myocardial infarction (heart attack). This variability in heart rate is also associated with emotional state.
* Excessive loss of weight
* Heart palpitations
* People who are experiencing overtraining syndrome will often have an increased risk of picking up infections. This is due to a number of factors including increased levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) in the blood and lack of sufficient calories.
* The individual will be far more likely to pick up injuries
* Inability to sleep at night
* Women may stop menstruating
While a moderate amount of physical activity is beneficial to health there are dangers when people take things to excess. This type of addiction can damage people both physically and mentally. Some of the dangers of this type of obsessive behavior include:
* When the individual is unable to engage in the activity they will suffer from depressive like symptoms. They can feel excessive guilt about missing out on their workout. They can also experience a great deal of anxiety because of it.
* People become obsessed with their body weight and may develop symptoms of anorexia or bulimia. They may exercise many hours each day in an attempt to burn calories. As their body weight falls, it can have a disastrous impact on their health. They may suffer from cardiovascular or kidney problems as a result.
* The exercise addict is just like an alcohol or drug addict. They develop a tolerance for the feel good hormones produced by intense activity. This means that they need to keep on increasing the intensity of their training in order to achieve the same reward.
* Those people who are addicted to this type of activity are at risk of developing overtraining syndrome. This can have an impact on their mental and physical health.
* When people are obsessed with fitness their relationships may begin to suffer. They neglect loved ones and fail to meet their family commitments.
* Excessive physical fitness may interfere with people’s ability to perform well at work. This may be due to tiredness or constantly picking up injuries because they have overstrained. Things can get so bad that that the individual puts their career in jeopardy.
Exercise addiction can be particularly harmful for people who are recovering from alcohol or drug abuse. It is a form of addiction substitution where the individual continues to avoid reality by engaging in compulsive behaviors. This means that they fail to do the necessary things to build a good life away substance abuse. It is also common for this type of substitute addiction to lead right back to their old behavior. People in recovery tend to be at a higher risk of developing an exercise addiction. This means that they need to be more vigilant in order to avoid such excesses.
There are a number of reasons why people may be susceptible to this type of substitute addiction in recovery:
* It is claimed that certain people have an addictive personality. This means that they are prone to all types of addictive behavior. If people are not careful, they may escape one addiction but replace it with something else that is equally as destructive
* This type of excessive exercising can be a sign that the individual is caught up in the relapse process.
* Most people do not set out to become obsessed with physical fitness. It just creeps up on them. It is easy for people to just slip across the line from healthy exercise to obsessive behavior without even noticing the transition.
* Exercise can be way to avoid facing problems. It keeps people busy and they get to enjoy feel-good hormones pumping through their body.
When people in recovery begin to over exercise it can be a sign that they are experiencing the early stages of the relapse process. What happens is that the individual meets a challenge in recovery that they feel unwilling to face. Their failure to deal with the problem means that they become stuck. This leads to increasing levels of dissatisfaction and tension. The individual attempts to deal with their discomfort by turning to maladaptive behaviors such as exercise addiction. This may provide a temporary reprieve but eventually it leads to even more discomfort. As life for the individual in recovery deteriorates they once again return to alcohol or drugs as a way to escape the misery.
Exercise can be a great asset for those who are trying to build a successful life away from addiction. Moderation is the key. Here are a few suggestions for how people can avoid this type of addiction:
* It is best if people have multiple interests as this should prevent them from becoming too obsessed with one activity. It is recommended that find at least one hobby that is not related to physical fitness.
* People in recovery need to be aware of the symptoms of exercise addiction so that they can escape the behavior before it causes too much damage.
* It is important for people to avoid exercising when they have picked up an injury
* They should never feel bad about missing an exercise session. This activity is there to improve their life and not to become something to feel guilty about.
* People should never allow this activity to get in the way of their family and work commitments.
* Avoid exercising for more than a couple of hours a day. It is also recommended that people should have rest days so that their body can recover.
* It is recommended that people educate themselves about healthy levels of physical activity. They need to escape the thinking that more is always better. It is also important for the individual to understand about the importance of good nutrition.