Exercise for many of us is a way to maintain our physical and psychological well-being. It helps us keep our muscles strong, maintain our body weight and relax at the same time. Still, this activity does not become our most important aim and the only focus in our lives. However, exercising may become not normal and healthy when it starts controlling us and our lives instead of the other way around.
Addiction to exercise is still a very new topic. The term “exercise addiction” was first introduced by Dr. William Glasser in 1976, who studied long-distance runners and found out that most of them had this obsessive-compulsive disorder. Statistics claim that 1 percent of the population is affected by this disorder, just like in the case of eating disorders. Nowadays, scientists study it very carefully trying to find more strong evidence to prove the existence of this type of addiction .
Exercise addiction is a compulsive disroder
Psychiatrists define exercise addiction as one of the examples of a compulsive disorder. Other examples of compulsive behavior are gambling addiction , work addiction , eating disorders , alcohol addiction and many more. There are physical, emotional and psychological damages caused by this type of addiction . Although many, in the world where sports are favorable, may argue that this type of addiction could be a positive one, there is, however, no such term, since any addiction damages persons’ lives and health.
You may ask for the reasons for regular exercise to become an addictive disorder . First of all, mostly serious sportsmen and people who do more sports, no matter what kind, become addicted. Those who exercise probably would agree that sports can improve mood, lower anxiety and cause more positive emotions in individuals. This may be one of the motivations why exercise becomes so important to many people.
Another reason is a desire to control. Suspicious and psychologically weak people feel the need to have a control on everything in their lives. Exercise is one of the methods because they can change their body shape, improve their mood and physical state in general while doing sports. For such individuals activity becomes the only focus in life like it is food to people with eating disorders.
And now imagine a person who is already addicted to physical exertion and breaks up with his or her girlfriend or boyfriend. How would he or she cope with the problem and negative emotions? Those who thought that the person would put sporting shoes on straight after the argument were probably right. It is interesting that doing sports becomes a way to cope with life to such individuals. They tend to exercise even more when they have problems at home, work or in their families.
These are most of the subjective and objective reasons for exercise to become an unhealthy habit or simply an addiction. People tend to repeat this activity to achieve certain results until they can no longer live a single day without it.
There is some scientific proof found that proves and finds the deeper reasons for development of this disorder in some individuals. First of all, there are certain changes made in our brain while doing sports. It does not matter if we do cross-country running, swimming or exerting in the gym, our brain releases certain mood modulating substances, such as beta-endorphin. This molecule is responsible for euphoria that comes after exercise.
Another substance that can be responsible for psychological changes caused by doing sports is serotonin. It is a chemical found in the brain and helps to transmit impulses across neurons. It is also responsible for mood elevations, anxiety and sleep control. Therefore scientists propose that this particular substance is released while exercising and may act as Prozac on people. Serotonin is claimed to be the reason for increased mood and lowered anxiety in healthy and depressed individuals after sports.
There are also psychological factors that cause mood improvements in people who do physical activity. Specialists say that being distracted from our daily activities while exercising actually helps us to be more satisfied with our bodies and our lives. Sport causes us to forget about our problems for a while and return back to our daily routine with a clear mind. Besides, we feel emotionally better when our bodies are firmer, stronger and healthier. We also do not have to care about our weight too much if we live an active life.
It is extremely hard to differentiate between a healthy exercise and an addiction . Physical activity is advertised a lot these days as a way to stay healthy, handsome and young. Therefore people who do sports are an example to many of us. However, when physical exertion becomes the only purpose in life and other spheres of life are sacrificed to it, exercise is probably an addiction. An addicted person forgets about anything else in the world except for sports. Such a person loses relationships, starts having problems at work and family because he or she only cares about “the daily dose of exercise”.
An addict usually finds many opportunities to do sports instead of spending time with friends. Such a person would start behaving strangely and others may notice that. An addicted person would tend to find excuses for continuous exercise and would start to hide the times he or she does physical activity.
Those, who do sports in order to feel better and healthier, should not stop doing it after reading this article. Just be careful not to become an addict or at least note the first signs of addiction, when they occur. Remember that there are a lot of other nice things apart from exercise you could do in life. The most important thing is to realize when more is less.