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  • Writer's pictureAnatomy Of Fitness


Updated: Oct 19, 2021

There is a stigma attached to addiction. Due to social pressure, most people do not even admit to being a victim of addiction. Any addiction, including exercise addiction, is terrible, could be lethal and may result in irreparable, severe mental or physical damage, sometimes even death. Addiction is a chronic disease of the brain and needs to be medically diagnosed and treated. Unfortunately, exercise addiction is rarely spoken of. Not many are aware that just like alcohol and drug addiction, people often get addicted to exercising. In this article, we will look at what is Exercise Addiction, what are the types of Exercise Addiction and what role do hormones play in forming the habit of exercising? There is also a bonus checklist to check if you are addicted to exercising. Let's get going!

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 physical body. They also put massive pressure on the central nervous system (CNS).

With correct nutrition and enough sleep, the body repairs itself and adapts by super-compensating. It may result in an increase in muscle mass or hypertrophy, the creation of motor neurological pathways, etc., which help us get better and better at a 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 the time to cover a specific distance.

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

  5. A decrease in the 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 immediately.


Although, as of October 2021, 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 its risks. 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 sometimes even death. Often, exercise addicts are proud of exercising no matter what and are known to have exercised in extreme conditions.

Some extreme conditions for exercising include exercising:

  1. When sick.

  2. When drunk or when on recreational drugs.

  3. After heavy meals.

  4. When injured.

  5. 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 extent to fix or hide the flaws, which are imaginary in most cases.


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, they are addicted to this post-exercise hormonal release. This hormonal release makes 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, sick, against doctors' advice, 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 for your exercise.

If two or more questions are a yes, please see a counsellor/ psychiatrist to seek medical help.

Key takeaways:

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

  2. It's vital 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 controlling it is the key to avoiding any addiction.

  7. Seek medical help immediately in case you or anyone you know is suffering from exercise addiction.

Now we understand what Exercise Addiction is, the types of Exercise Addictions, and what role hormones play in forming the habit of exercising. Please take exercise addiction as serious as alcohol or drug addiction; it has all the potential to kill us.

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