Dear Barb – Exercise Addiction

Dear Barb:

Hi, I read your column all of the time. I’m a 24-year-old student in my last year of university. I was involved in a lot of sports in high school and began working-out regularly to keep myself in shape. At that time, I worked-out a couple of times a week. Through the years my work-outs have increased, now I work-out daily usually for one to two hours at a time. If I miss one day of working-out I feel awful, almost physically ill. I’m starting to wonder if I’m working-out too much. My friends keep telling me I’m addicted. I don’t think I am. I just really enjoy working-out. Is it possible to work-out too much?

Thanks Barb
Rita in Comox BC

Hi Rita. I commend you for your self-discipline. Working-out regularly requires a commitment that most people find difficult to maintain, but you have been able to do so for all of these years.

There are various reasons why people work-out. Some people work-out to lose weight, others to maintain their weight, and some individuals exercise for the health benefits. How often you work-out will depend on what your goals are. Your physician and/or your personal trainer can help you to determine what you ultimately want to achieve from exercising.

Your age, weight and gender are also considerations when determining how much exercise you require. Some research indicates 30 minutes three to four times a week is enough to reap the health benefits of regular exercise. Obviously if you are trying to lose weight you require more frequent and higher intensity work-outs. As well, in order to lose weight you will need to burn more calories than you are taking in.

In answer to your question, is it possible to exercise too much, after doing some research I learned that it is possible to over do it when exercising. You may have a problem when you no longer choose to exercise, but rather feel a compulsion to. Working-out when you are ill or injured, or planning your life around your work-outs, are warning signs that your exercising may be out of control. Your friends may be right in saying that you are “addicted.” In addition, often individuals who exercise compulsively may also have an eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia.

The following are some behaviours to watch for that may indicate you have a problem in this area.

“¢ Feeling that the need to exercise is more important than attending a significant social or family event.
“¢ Feeling guilty or depressed when you don’t work-out.
“¢ Feeling withdrawal symptoms when you are unable to exercise due to circumstances beyond your control.
“¢ Choosing to ignore the concerns of your friends and family in regards to your exercising.

An excellent web site that provides additional information on this topic is Mama’s Health.com (www.mamashealth.com/fitness).

Good luck Rita and I hope I have been able to help sort this out for you.

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