Individual Factors and the Context of Physical Activity in Exercise Dependence: A Prospective Study of ‘Ultra-Marathoners’

  • Benjamin AllegreEmail author
  • Pierre Therme
  • Mark Griffiths


Although there is a growing body of literature examining determinants and correlates of exercise dependence, there has been a lack systematic measures of individual factors combined with the context of physical activity characteristics. The aim of this prospective study was therefore to examine the relative influence of individual factors and environmental context of physical activity on exercise dependence. This study examined a group of 95 ‘ultra-marathoners’ of a 100 km race. Each participant completed a questionnaire that assessed individual factors (e.g., sex, age, BMI, marital status, etc.), context of the physical activity (e.g., environmental and social context of practice), and the effect on the body as a result of physical activity (e.g., body control and modification). For participants in this study, the strongest predictors of exercise dependence were individual factors (age and BMI), and exercising in the city in an unstructured space. It is concluded that an ecological model of physical activity could be applied to exercise dependence, and that exercise dependence could provide interesting insights into the promotion of physical activity as a health-related behaviour.


Exercise dependence Exercise addiction Physical activity Social and environmental context 


  1. Adams, J., Miller, T. W., & Kraus, R. F. (2003). Exercise dependence: Diagnostic and therapeutic issues for patients in psychotherapy. Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy, 33, 93–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. American College of Sports Medicine (1993). Position stand—Physical-activity, physical-fitness, and hypertension. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 25, R1–R10.Google Scholar
  3. American Psychiatric Association (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. (4th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.Google Scholar
  4. Bamber, D. J., Cockerill, I. M., Rodgers, S., & Carroll, D. (2003). Diagnostic criteria for exercise dependence in women. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 37, 393–400.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Biddle, S. J. H. (1995). Exercise and psychosocial health. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 66, 292–297.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Biddle, S. J. H., & Fox, K. R. (1989). Exercise and health psychology—Emerging relationships. British Journal of Medical Psychology, 62, 205–216.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Blanchard, C. M., McGannon, K. R., Spence, J. C., Rhodes, R. E., Nehl, E., Baker, F. et al. (2005). Social ecological correlates of physical activity in normal weight, overweight, and obese individuals. International Journal of Obesity, 29, 720–726.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Carron, A. V., Hausenblas, H. A., & Mack, D. (1996). Social influence and exercise: A meta-analyse. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 18, 1–16.Google Scholar
  9. Cohen-Mansfield, J., Marx, M. S., Biddison, J. R., & Guralnik, J. M. (2004). Socio-environmental exercise preferences among older adults. Preventive Medicine, 38, 804–811.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cox, R., & Orford, J. (2004). A qualitative study of the meaning of exercise for people who could be labelled as ‘addicted’ to exercise—Can ‘addiction’ be applied to high frequency exercising? Addiction Research and Theory, 12, 167–188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Delatorre, J. (1995). Mens-sana-in-corpore-sano, or exercise abuse: Clinical considerations. Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic, 59, 15–31.Google Scholar
  12. Dishman, R. K., Sallis, J. F., & Orenstein, D. R. (1985). The determinants of physical-activity and exercise. Public Health Reports, 100, 158–171.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Downs, D. S., Hausenblas, H. A., & Nigg, C. R. (2004). Factorial validity and psychometric examination of the exercise dependence scale-revised. Measurement in Physical Education and Exercise Science, 8, 183–201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fick, D. S., Goff, S. J., & Oppliger, R. (1996). Running and its effect on family life. Archives of Family Medicine, 5, 385–388.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Furst, D. M., & Germone, K. (1993). Negative addiction in male and female runners and exercisers. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 77, 192–194.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Glover, B., & Schuder, P. (1988). The new competitive runner’s handbook. New York: Penguin.Google Scholar
  17. Godin, G., Jobin, J., & Bouillon, J. (1986). Assessment of leisure-time exercise behavior by self-report—A concurrent validity study. Canadian Journal of Public Health-Revue Canadienne De Sante Publique, 77, 359–362.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Griffiths, M. D. (1997). Exercise addiction: A case study. Addiction Research, 5, 161–168.Google Scholar
  19. Hausenblas, H. A., & Downs, D. S. (2002a). Exercise dependence: A systematic review. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 3, 89–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hausenblas, H. A., & Downs, D. S. (2002b). How much is too much? The development and validation of the exercise dependence scale. Psychology and Health, 17, 387–404.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Humpel, N., Owen, N., & Leslie, E. (2002). Environmental factors associated with adults’ participation in physical activity: A review. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 22, 188–199.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Klein, D. A., Bennett, A. S., Schebendach, J., Foltin, R. W., Devlin, M. J., & Walsh, B. T. (2004). Exercise “addiction” in anorexia nervosa: Model development and pilot data. Cns Spectrums, 9, 531–537.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Klesges, R. C., Eck, L. H., Mellon, M. W., Fulliton, W., Somes, G. W., & Hanson, C. L. (1990). The accuracy of self-reports of physical-activity. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 22, 690–697.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Marttila, J., Laitakari, J., Nupponen, R., Miilunpalo, S., & Paronen, O. (1998). The versatile nature of physical activity—On the psychological, behavioural and contextual characteristics of health-related physical activity. Patient Education and Counseling, 33, S29–S38.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Masters, K. S., & Lambert, M. J. (1989). On gender comparison and construct validity: An examination of the commitment to running scale in a sample of marathon runners. Journal of Sport Behavior, 12, 196–202.Google Scholar
  26. Parks, S. E., Housemann, R. A., & Brownson, R. C. (2003). Differential correlates of physical activity in urban and rural adults of various socioeconomic backgrounds in the United States. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 57, 29–35.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Pierce, E. F., McGowan, R. W., & Lynn, T. D. (1993). Exercise dependence in relation to competitive orientation of runners. Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, 33, 189–193.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Pierce, E. F., Rohaly, K. A., & Fritchley, B. (1997). Sex differences on exercise dependence for men and women in a marathon road race. Perceptual Motor Skills, 84, 991–994.Google Scholar
  29. Sallis, J. F., Hovell, M. F., & Hofstetter, C. R. (1992). Predictors of adoption and maintenance of vigorous physical-activity in men and women. Preventive Medicine, 21, 237–251.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Salmon, P. (2001). Effects of physical exercise on anxiety, depression, and sensitivity to stress: A unifying theory. Clinical Psychology Review, 21, 33–61.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Shephard, R. J. (2003). Limits to the measurement of habitual physical activity by questionnaires. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 37, 197–206.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Spence, J. C., & Lee, R. E. (2003). Toward a comprehensive model of physical activity. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 4, 7–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Summers, J. J., Machin, V. J., & Sargent, G. I. (1983). Psycho-social factors related to marathon running. Journal of Sport Psychology, 5, 314–331.Google Scholar
  34. Szabo, A. (1995). The impact of exercise deprivation on well-being of habitual exercisers. The Australian Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 27, 68–75.Google Scholar
  35. Szabo, A. (1998). Studying the psychological impact of exercise deprivation: Are experimental studies hopeless? Journal of Sport Behavior, 21, 139–147.Google Scholar
  36. Terry, A., Szabo, A., & Griffiths, M. (2004). The exercise addiction inventory: A new brief screening tool. Addiction Research and Theory, 12, 489–499.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Titze, S., Stronegger, W., & Owen, N. (2005). Prospective study of individual, social, and environmental predictors of physical activity: Women’s leisure running. Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 6, 363–376.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. US Department of Health and Human Services (1996). Physical activity and health: A report of the surgeon general. Atlanta, GA: US Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.Google Scholar
  39. Veale, D. M. W. (1995). Does primary exercise dependence really exist? In J. Annet, B. Cripps, & H. Steinberg (Eds.), Exercise addiction: Motivation for participation in sport and exercise (pp. 1–5). Leicester, UK: The British Psychological Society.Google Scholar
  40. Vuori, I. (1998). Does physical activity enhance health? Patient Education and Counseling, 33, S95–S103.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Wilcox, S., Castro, C., King, A. C., Housemann, R., & Brownson, R. C. (2000). Determinants of leisure time physical activity in rural compared with urban older and ethnically diverse women in the United States. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 54, 667–672.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Benjamin Allegre
    • 1
    Email author
  • Pierre Therme
    • 1
  • Mark Griffiths
    • 2
  1. 1.UPRES EA 32 94Faculté des Sciences du SportMarseilleFrance
  2. 2.Division of PsychologyNottingham Trent UniversityNottinghamUK

Personalised recommendations