Exercise addiction has many consequences. Not only can a relentless physical activity regimen lead to overuse injuries, exhaustion, burnout, heart rate abnormalities, adverse changes in cardiac tissue, and lowered immunity. Compulsive physical activity can get in the way of close personal relationships – and may have the most adverse effects on romantic ones.
Consider the mood effects of going to the gym, hitting the track, or forcing yourself to bike ride or swim for hours a day, most days of the week, without respite. Sure, moderate physical activity can boost your wellbeing and give you a kick of endorphins. But an exercise schedule without pause can, as research shows, exacerbate (if not precipitate) anxiety and depression. What’s more, people who train themselves to the point
of exhaustion can suffer from overtraining syndrome, which entails fatigue, loss of
motivation, restlessness, irritability, impairments inability to concentrate, and insomnia.
The above outcomes – combined with the limited time and energy exercise addicts have to develop relationships, given how all-consuming their routines are – make getting close to others and maintaining meaningful connections incredibly difficult. Moreover, people who have lost sight of their initial exercise goals and devolved into an endless addictive cycle with physical activity may perceive the amount of effort required to maintain personal relationships as an impediment to their workout routines and overlook the importance of such relationships to their mental (and physical) health. Activities that would forge a stronger bond between them and a significant other, family member, or friend may not appeal if it does not involve physical activity or if it involves a deviation from an exercise addict’s strict schedule.
Partners, friends, and family members of exercise addicts may also feel shut out of the exercise addict’s life and hurt as a consequence. This may make these individuals less likely to try to repair their relationship with an exercise addict, contributing to the rift between them and sapping the spirit out of their relationship. People close to an exercise addict may also experience a sense of guilt when they compare their own fitness habits to those of the exercise addict. Despite exercising at a healthy volume and frequency on a regular basis, facing or hearing about an exercise addict’s relentless
schedule may cause friends and loved ones to question whether their own routine isn’t enough. As a result an unhealthy uptick in their own commitment to fitness may occur as they attempt to “keep up with” the exercise addict’s. And when it comes to intimacy, romantic partners of an exercise addict may be particularly disappointed an hurt. The exhaustion wrought by overzealous physical activity can sap sexual desire, removing this act of interpersonal bonding from the list of shared activities that would otherwise bolster a couple’s relationship and building resentment between both parties.
Who is at risk for exercise addiction?
People who feel pressure to stay in shape are at risk of developing exercise addiction. And people who are overweight and set out on an extreme weight loss regimen may also be at risk of exercise addiction. Researchers at the University of Southern California speculate that 15 percent of exercise addicts are also addicted to cigarettes, alcohol, or illicit drugs. An estimated 25 percent may have other addictions, such as caffeine addiction or shopping addiction.
Take away tip
How can I prevent exercise addiction? To prevent exercise addiction, avoid excessive trips to the gym. Limit your workout time and the amount of daily exercise. Take breaks from exercise throughout the week to let your body rest and make sure to not isolate yourself from your family, friends or partner. If you find yourself becoming obsessed with exercising talk to your doctor about what you can do.
Q&A: How exercise addiction can interfere with your social life?
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