• Anatomy Of Fitness


Updated: Nov 12, 2020

What is EXERCISE ADDICTION? What are the types of EXERCISE ADDICTIONS? What role do hormones play in the habit of exercising? Check your exercise addiction probability with a quick CHECKLIST at the end of the article.

Exercise addiction is rarely spoken of. Not many are aware that just like alcohol and drug addiction, people often get addicted to exercising. Any addiction is lethal and may result in irreparable and severe mental or physical damage or even death.

What is EXERCISE and What Qualifies to be called PROGRESS in EXERCISE?

Exercise is any mental or physical activity requiring effort and aimed at improving or sustaining fitness. For simplicity, let’s only focus on physical activities here. Challenging physical activities like sprinting, long-distance running, swimming, weight training etc. put enormous stress on our body. They also put massive stress on the central nervous system (CNS).

With proper nutrition and enough sleep, the body repairs itself and adapts by super-compensating. It may result in an increase in hypertrophy, creation of motor neurological pathways, etc. which help us to get better and better at that particular task. Hence, with each passing day, we see an improvement in our performance.

For example, if we were running for fitness, then any of the following can be considered an improvement:

  1. An increase in speed.

  2. An increase in distance covered for the same amount of time.

  3. A decrease in time to cover a specific distance.

  4. A decrease in average heart rate for a specific distance and time.

  5. A decrease in resting heart rate etc.


Addiction is a person’s inability to stop doing or stop using something. It is characterised by compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli involvement regardless of the risk associated with doing so.

There is nothing like a good addiction; any addiction is terrible and needs to be treated at the earliest.


Although as of June 2020, Exercise Addiction is not classified as a disorder, it is a form of Behavioural Addiction. Exercise Addiction can be characterised by compulsive engagement in any physical activity regardless of the risks associated with it. It is never beneficial to one’s physical and mental health and has no benefits. It has very high chances of damaging the body to the extent that it may even result in irreversible damage or death. Often, exercise addicts are proud of exercising no matter what and are known to have exercised in extreme conditions.

For example:

  1. When sick.

  2. When drunk or when on recreational drugs.

  3. After heavy meals.

  4. In extreme mental stress etc.


Typically there are three types of disorders associated with overtraining or excessive exercising:

  1. Exercise Bulimia: People diagnosed with Exercise Bulimia regularly undertake high-intensity exercise sessions immediately after a binge eating session.

  2. Anorexia Athletica: People diagnosed with Anorexia Athletica will exercise regardless of pain, sickness, injury, illness or any such discomfort.

  3. Body Dysmorphophobia: People diagnosed with Body Dysmorphophobia perceive parts of their bodies to be odd or different. These individuals may go to any extends to fix or hide the flaws, which in most cases are imaginary.


The Role of HORMONES in Exercise Addiction:

When we exercise our bodies release hormones like endorphins, serotonin, dopamine etc. These are natural painkillers and act like morphine. These hormones interact with the receptors in the brain to reduce pain perception, eventually triggering a positive feeling in the mind. Although most exercise addicts are not even aware of the existence of these hormones, genuinely speaking, they are addicted to the release of these hormones, which make them addicted to exercising.



Go through the following checklist to uncover if you or anyone you know is Addicted to Exercising:

  1. You continue to exercise even when it does more harm than good. For example, experiencing knee pain when running, when sick, against doctors’ advice, when injured etc.

  2. You believe that missing out on even a day’s exercise will be highly detrimental to health.

  3. Exercise deprivation leads you to severe withdrawal symptoms like (not limited to) guilt, depression and anxiety.

  4. You exercise with the sole purpose of feeling happy or euphoric.

  5. You are unable to control the urge for exercising.

  6. Your exercise consumes a significant amount of time, leading to lesser time spent on other tasks/ events like social gatherings, vacations etc.

  7. You keep thinking about your next exercise session.

  8. You do not have a clearly defined objective of your exercise.

If the answer to two or more questions is a yes, please see a counsellor/ psychiatrist to seek for medical help.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Exercise Addiction is a serious disorder that does more harm than good.

  2. It's important to treat Exercise Addiction just like any other addiction.

  3. No addiction is good. All addictions are terrible.

  4. Hormones plan a vital role in Exercise Addiction.

  5. There are three types of exercise addictions: Exercise Bulimia, Anorexia Athletica, Body Dysmorphophobia.

  6. Addiction is a mental game and ability to control it is the key to avoid any addiction.

Now we understand what Exercise Addiction is, what are it's types and the role of Hormones in Exercise Addiction. Please take Exercise Addiction as serious as alcohol or drug addiction; it has all the potential to kill us.

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