Sports Medicine

, Volume 49, Issue 2, pp 319–330 | Cite as

Prevalence of Risk for Exercise Dependence: A Systematic Review

  • Adilson MarquesEmail author
  • Miguel Peralta
  • Hugo Sarmento
  • Vânia Loureiro
  • Élvio R. Gouveia
  • Margarida Gaspar de Matos
Systematic Review



Exercise dependence (EXD) can be considered an addictive behaviour because it presents signs typical of other addictive behaviours. Despite possible health problems related to EXD, the prevalence of risk for EXD has never been systematically reviewed.


This article aimed to systematically review the prevalence of risk for EXD.


Studies were identified from searches in the ERIC, PsycINFO, PubMed, Scopus, SPORTDiscus, and Web of Science electronic databases up to June 2018. Empirical studies were selected if (1) they included the outcomes of the prevalence of EXD; (2) participants were regular exercisers; and (3) they were published in either the English, French, Portuguese, or Spanish languages. A total of 34 articles met the inclusion criteria.


The prevalence of risk for EXD was estimated to be between 3 and 7% of regular exercisers and the university student population, and between 6 and 9% of the athlete population.


The results of this review indicated that the prevalence of risk for EXD varies with the characteristics of the exerciser, but an overall prevalence of 3–9% is estimated. Risk for EXD is a cause for concern and, from a public health point of view, is a problem that has to be addressed.



The authors thank Professor Bruce Jones for revising the document.

Compliance with Ethical Standards


No sources of funding were used to assist in the preparation of this article.

Conflict of interest

Adilson Marques, Miguel Peralta, Hugo Sarmento, Vânia Loureiro, Élvio Rúbio Gouveia and Margarida Gaspar de Matos declare they have no conflicts of interest relevant to the content of this review.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Adilson Marques
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Miguel Peralta
    • 1
  • Hugo Sarmento
    • 4
  • Vânia Loureiro
    • 5
  • Élvio R. Gouveia
    • 6
  • Margarida Gaspar de Matos
    • 3
    • 7
  1. 1.Centro Interdisciplinar do Estudo da Performance Humana, Faculdade de Motricidade HumanaUniversidade de LisboaCruz QuebradaPortugal
  2. 2.Centro de Investigação em Saúde Pública, Escola Nacional de Saúde PúblicaUniversidade Nova de LisboaLisbonPortugal
  3. 3.Instituto de Saúde Ambiental, Faculdade de MedicinaUniversidade de LisboaLisbonPortugal
  4. 4.Research Unit for Sport and Physical Activity (CIDAF)Faculty of Sport Sciences and Physical Education, University of CoimbraCoimbraPortugal
  5. 5.Escola Superior de Educação, Instituto Politécnico de BejaBejaPortugal
  6. 6.Department of Physical Education and SportUniversity of MadeiraFunchalPortugal
  7. 7.Faculdade de Motricidade HumanaUniversidade de LisboaLisbonPortugal

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