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Addicted to exercise

Are you addicted to exercise? While physical activity is obviously goodfor you, too much exercise could signal problems brewing.

Are you addicted to exercise? While physical activity is obviously good for you, too much exercise could signal problems brewing.

“If exercise takes over from work, social activities, and sleep, that is an unhealthy behaviour,” says Wendy Lee, a kinesiologist at Bellwood Health Services in Toronto, a residential treatment centre for addictions.

“If you are exercising three to hour hours a day, something else is being cut out of your life,” she adds. “If you are not willing to attend family functions, that’s a sign you might be going overboard. It’s not normal to exercise more than two hours a day, five days a week.”

An interesting Parisian study done in 2008 found that 42 per cent of people using a fitness facility were dependent on exercise. It also found those with exercise addiction were more likely to engage in compulsive shopping.

One of the dangers of exercise addiction is that if you have to stop exercising due to injury, other addictions take over.

“If you have to stop, how would you replace that high? You could turn to drinking or drugs.”

Another danger is people don’t stop or slow down when they should, and could get hurt.

“If they refuse to take a rest day or stop when injured, there is something wrong.”

Excessive exercise is not a formal psychiatric diagnosis, but it could become one in the future.

Meanwhile, it is one of the criteria for bulimia.

Over 50 per cent of those with eating disorders engage in excessive exercise to keep their weight down.

“Exercise itself is a very healthy behaviour, but it needs to be done with variety, in moderation and it should be fun. If you are doing it just to lose weight and not enjoying it, that is not a healthy behaviour,” says Lee.

Warning signs

We asked Wendy Lee, a kinesiologist at Bellwood Health Services in Toronto, for some signs of excessive exercising.


  • You say no to social activities with friends so you can exercise

  • You exercise more than two hours a day

  • You would be depressed if you couldn’t exercise

  • You always exercise alone

  • You don’t get enough sleep because of exercise