Most people believe that following a healthy diet and exercising leads to positive mental and physical health; however, it is also possible to be addicted to exercising. Exercise dependence can infringe on daily life’s responsibilities, create stress, impair relationships and lead to health problems.

Exercise dependence is commonly linked with eating disorders. Those diagnosed with bulimia may be addicted to exercising as a means of controlling their weight. An October 2011, New York Times article quotes neuroscientist Dr. J. Linden, who states that exercise addicts can crave exercise and undergo withdrawal. According to Dr. Linden, the brain releases chemicals from the pleasurable experience they derive from exercise. Therefore, exercise addicts experience the rush or high sensations associated with other addictions.

Since exercise is a socially acceptable and even encouraged behavior, people suffering from exercise dependence may be less likely to acknowledge they have a problem. Common signs of exercise addiction include:

1. Exercise may interfere with fundamental activities, such as work or family obligations.

2. Exercise addicts may fail to rest by exercising when their bodies are fatigued, injured or in pain.

3. They constantly focus on weight, body image and the need to burn off calories.

4. They exercise for long periods of time, usually alone with a strict exercise regime.

5. Exercise addicts may try to sneak workouts and may avoid others when exercising.

6. Exercise addicts may suffer from depression, anxiety and stress.

If you have an eating disorder, you may combat your concerns about weight gain with excessive exercise; this may be a sign that you need help. I am a Licensed Professional Counselor in the Philadelphia area. I can provide therapy to help you focus on other activities, engage in less rigorous acivities and improve your self-image. Taking control of your life by seeking assistance will help you have a more balanced mental and physical outlook.