Advertisement

Sports Medicine

, Volume 43, Issue 2, pp 111–119 | Cite as

Exercise Addiction

  • Emilio LandolfiEmail author
Review Article

Abstract

This article examines the nature of exercise addiction. It presents a broad, congruent and discerning narrative literature review with the aim of providing a deeper understanding of the condition ‘exercise addiction’, including symptoms and options for treatment. In addition, guidelines are provided with respect to ‘healthy’ levels of exercise. Criteria used for determining the eligibility of studies evaluated in the review included the provision of relevant information in studies identified using pertinent search terms. The review highlights some of the key distinctions between healthy levels of exercise and exercise addiction. The findings suggest that an individual who is addicted to exercise will continue exercising regardless of physical injury, personal inconvenience or disruption to other areas of life including marital strain, interference with work and lack of time for other activities. ‘Addicted’ exercisers are more likely to exercise for intrinsic rewards and experience disturbing deprivation sensations when unable to exercise. In contrast, ‘committed’ exercisers engage in physical activity for extrinsic rewards and do not suffer severe withdrawal symptoms when they cannot exercise. Exercisers must acquire a sense of life-balance while embracing an attitude conducive to sustainable long-term physical, psychological and social health outcomes. Implementation of recommendations by the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology, which states that all apparently healthy adults between 18 and 64 years of age should accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate (5 or 6 on a scale of 0–10) to vigorous (7 or 8 on a scale of 0–10) intensity aerobic physical activity per week in bouts of 10 minutes or more, also expressed as 30 minutes per day distributed over 5 days per week, would be a good start.

Keywords

Physical Activity Anorexia Nervosa Eating Disorder Withdrawal Symptom Exercise Dependence 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Notes

Acknowledgements

The author would like to acknowledge the University of the Fraser Valley’s Scholarly Activity Program for providing a section course release, as well as the University Research Office for providing a student researcher (Ms. Ashley Hoogendoorn) to assist with the literature search and article reviews for this work. The author also reports no conflicts of interest, and he alone is responsible for the content and writing of this article.

References

  1. 1.
    McArdle WD, Katch FI, Katch VL. Exercise physiology: energy, nutrition, and human performance. Philadelphia (PA): Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2001.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Warburton DER, Nicol CW, Bredin SSD. Health benefits of physical activity: the evidence. Can Med Assoc J. 2006;174(6):801–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Warburton DER, Nicol CW, Bredin SSD. Prescribing exercise as preventive therapy. Can Med Assoc J. 2006;174(7):961–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Fahey TD, Insel PM, Roth WY, et al. Fit & well: core concepts and labs in physical fitness and wellness. Toronto (ON): McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 2010.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Donatelle RJ, Thompson AM. Health: the basics. Toronto (ON): Pearson Education Canada, 2011.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Kriska A. Physical activity and the prevention of type 2 diabetes mellitus: how much for how long? Sports Med. 2000;29(3):147–51.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Blair SN, Kohl HW, Paffenbarger RS, et al. Physical fitness and all-cause mortality: a prospective study of healthy men and women. J Am Med Assoc. 1989;262(17):2395–401.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Corbin CB, Lindsey R. Concepts of fitness and wellness. Boston (MA): McGraw Hill, 1997.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Yates A. Compulsive exercise and eating disorders: toward an integrated theory of activity. New York: Brunner/Mazel, 1991.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Szabo A. The impact of exercise deprivation on well-being of habitual exercisers. Aust J Sci Med Sport. 1995;27:68–75.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Szabo A. Studying the psychological impact of exercise deprivation: are experimental studies hopeless? J Sport Behav. 1998;21:139–47.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Szabo A. Physical activity and psychological dysfunction. In: Biddle S, Fox K, Boutcher S, editors. Physical activity and psychological well-being. London: Routledge, 2000. p. 130–53.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Smith LL. Overtraining, excessive exercise, and altered immunity. Sports Med. 2003;33(5):347–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Baekeland F. Exercise deprivation: sleep and psychological reactions. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1970;22:365–9.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Allegre B, Souville M, Therme P, et al. Definitions and measures of exercise dependence. Addict Res Theory. 2006;14(6):631–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Lauer H. The new Americans: defining ourselves through sports and fitness participation. Boston (MA): American Sports Data Inc., 2006.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Jones A. “… And God laughs:” an autobiography by Arthur Jones. Sudbury: Bodyworx Publishing, 1994.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Cox R, Oxford J. 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? Addict Res Theory. 2004;12(2):167–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Saul R. How to avoid the disaster of overtraining. Iron Man. 1982;41(6):15, 74.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Draeger J. The obligatory exerciser. Phys Sportsmed. 2005;33(6):13–23.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Szabo A, Griffiths MD. Exercise addiction in British sport science students. Int J Ment Health Addict. 2007;5(1):25–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Greenberg JS, Dintiman GB, Myers Oakes B, et al. Physical fitness & wellness. Toronto (ON): Pearson Education, 2004.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Griffiths MD. Exercise addiction: a case study. Addict Res. 1997;5:161–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Villella C, Martinotti G, Di Nicla M, et al. Behavioural addictions in adolescents and young adults: results from a prevalence study. J Gambl Stud. 2011;27:203–14.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Leuenberger A. Endorphins, exercise, and addictions: a review of exercise dependence. Impulse. 2006;1–9.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Le Grange D, Eisler I. The link between anorexia nervosa and excessive exercise: a review. Eur Eat Dis Rev. 1993;1:100–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Hausenblas HA, Symons Downs D. Exercise dependence: a systematic review. Psychol Sport Exerc. 2002;3:89–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Mónok K, Berczik K, Urbán R, et al. Psychometric properties and concurrent validity of two exercise addiction measures: a population wide study. Psychol Sport Exerc. 2012;13(6):739–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Freimuth M, Moniz S, Kim SR. Clarifying exercise addiction: differential diagnosis, co-occurring disorders, and phases of addiction. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2011;8:4069–81.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Yates A, Leehey K, Shisslak C. Running an analogue of anorexia. N Engl J Med. 1983;308:251–5.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. 31.
    Veale D. Exercise dependence. Br J Addict. 1987;82:735–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Terry A, Szabo A, Griffiths M. The exercise addiction inventory: a new brief screening tool. Addict Res Theory. 2004;12(5):489–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Glasser W. Positive addictions. New York: Harper and Row, 1976.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Szabo A, Frenkl R, Caputo A. Relationships between addiction to running, commitment to running, and deprivation from running: a study on the internet. Eur J Sport Psychol. 1997;1:130–47.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Rozin P, Stoess C. Is there a general tendency to become addicted? Addict Behav. 1993;18:81–7.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Adams J, Kirby R. Exercise dependence: a problem for sports physiotherapists. Aust Phys Ther. 1997;43(1):53–8.Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    Polivy J, Clendenen V. Exercise and compulsive behavior. Paper presented at the proceedings of The Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association, Aug 20–24 1993. Toronto (ON): APA, 1993.Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Sachs ML. Running addiction. In: Sacks M, Sachs M, editors. Psychology of running. Champaign (IL): Human Kinetics, 1981. p. 116–26.Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Waldstreicher J. Anorexia nervosa presenting as morbid exercising. Lancet. 1985;325:987.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    Morgan WP. Negative addiction in runners. Phys Sportsmed. 1979;7:57–70.Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    Veale DMW. Psychological-aspects of staleness and dependence on exercise. Int J Sports Med. 1991;12:S19–22.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    Veale DMW. Does primary exercise dependence really exist? In: Annet J, Cripps B, Steinberg H, editors. Exercise addiction: motivation for participation in sport and exercise. Leicester: The British Psychological Society, 1995. p. 1–5.Google Scholar
  43. 43.
    Berczik K, Szabo A, Griffiths MD, et al. Exercise addiction: symptoms, diagnosis, epidemiology, and etiology. Subst Use Misuse. 2012;47(4):403–17.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. 44.
    Goldfarb AH, Jamurtas AZ. Beta-endorphin response to exercise: an update. Sports Med. 1997;24(1):8–16.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. 45.
    Kjaer M, Dela F. Endocrine response to exercise. In: Hoffman-Goetz L, editor. Exercise and immune function. Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press, 1996. p. 6–8.Google Scholar
  46. 46.
    Grant E. The exercise fix. Psychol Today. 1988;22:24–8.Google Scholar
  47. 47.
    Zalewska-Kaszubska J, Czarnecka E. Deficit in beta-endorphin peptide and tendency to alcohol abuse. Peptides. 2005;26:701–5.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. 48.
    Bird PJ. Exercise addiction: keeping fit (online). http://www.hhp.ufl.edu/faculty/pbird/keepingfit/ARTICLE/EXADDICT.HTM. Accessed 18 July 2011.
  49. 49.
    Sachs ML. Compliance and addiction to exercise. In: Cantu CR, editor. The exercising adult. Boston (MA): Collamore Press, 1992. p. 19–27.Google Scholar
  50. 50.
    Chapman CL, De Castro JM. Running addiction: measurement and associated psychological characteristics. J Sport Med Phys Fit. 1990;30:283–90.Google Scholar
  51. 51.
    Anshel MH. A psychobehavioral analysis of addicted versus non-addicted male and female exercisers. J Sport Behav. 1991;14:145–54.Google Scholar
  52. 52.
    Loumidis KS, Roxborough H. A cognitive-behavioral approach to excessive exercise. In: Annett J, Cripps B, Steinberg H, editors. Exercise addiction: motivation for performance in sport and exercise. An occasional paper for the Sport and Exercise Psychology Section of The British Psychological Society based on proceedings of a one-day workshop at Warwick University. Leicester: British Psychological Society; 1995. p. 45–53.Google Scholar
  53. 53.
    Cockerill IM, Riddington ME. Exercise dependence and associated disorders: a review. Couns Psychol Q. 1996;9:119–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. 54.
    Adams JM, Miller TW, Kraus RF. Exercise dependence: diagnostic and therapeutic issues for patients in psychotherapy. J Contemp Psychother. 2003;33(2):93–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. 55.
    Thornton EW, Scott SE. Motivation in the committed runner: correlation between self-report scales and behavior. Health Promot Int. 1995;10:177–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. 56.
    Freimuth M. Addicted? Recognizing destructive behavior before it’s too late. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2008.Google Scholar
  57. 57.
    Klein DA, Bennett AS, Schebendach J, et al. Exercise “addiction” in anorexia nervosa: model development and pilot data. Cent Nerv Syst Spectr. 2004;97(7):531–7.Google Scholar
  58. 58.
    Stoliaroff S. Know the signs of unhealthy exercise addiction. Running Fit News. 2003;18(6):4–5.Google Scholar
  59. 59.
    Asp K. Addicted to exercise. Am Fit. 1999;64–6.Google Scholar
  60. 60.
    Empfield D. How much is too much (online). http://www.slowtwitch.com/mainheadings/coachcorn/overtraining.html. Accessed 3 Aug 2009.
  61. 61.
    Fisher LA, Wrisberg CA. Recognizing and dealing with exercise addiction. Athl Ther Today. 2004;9(1):36–7.Google Scholar
  62. 62.
    Cumella EJ. The heavy weight of exercise addiction: treating this often-overlooked disorder can save patients’ lives. Behav Health Manage. 2005;25(5):26–31.Google Scholar
  63. 63.
    Jenkins M. Overtraining syndrome (online). http://www.rice.edu/~jenky/sports/overtraining.html. Accessed 11 Aug 2001.
  64. 64.
    McGough S. Exercise addiction and eating disorders (online). http://www.mclean.harvard.edu/pdf/news/fitnessmanage0704.pdf. Accessed 6 Aug 2004.
  65. 65.
    Chalmers J, Catalan J, Day A, et al. Anorexia nervosa presenting as morbid exercising. Lancet. 1985;1:286–7.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. 66.
    Coen SP, Ogles BM. Psychological characteristics of the obligatory runner: a critical examination of the anorexia analogue hypothesis. J Sport Exerc Psychol. 1993;15:338–54.Google Scholar
  67. 67.
    Despres R. Burn baby burn. Womens Sport Fit. 1997;19(4):38–43.Google Scholar
  68. 68.
    Katz JL. Long-distance running, anorexia nervosa, and bulimia; a report of two cases. Compr Psychiatry. 1986;2:74–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. 69.
    Dishman RK. Medical psychology in exercise and sport. Med Clin N Am. 1985;69:123–43.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  70. 70.
    Little JK. The athlete’s neurosis: a deprivation crisis. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica. 1969;45:187–97.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. 71.
    Little JC. Psychological effect of chronic physical activity. Med Sci Sport Exerc. 1970;2:213–7.Google Scholar
  72. 72.
    Adkins EC, Keel PK. Does ‘excessive’ or ‘compulsive’ best describe exercise as a symptom of bulimia nervosa? Int J Eat Disorder. 2005;38:24–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. 73.
    Biddle S, Cavill N, Sallis J. Policy framework for young people and health-enhancing physical activity. In: Biddle S, Sallis J, Cavill N, editors. Young and active? Young people and health-enhancing physical activity: evidence and implications. London: Health Education Authority; 1998. p. 3–16.Google Scholar
  74. 74.
    Thompson WR, editor. ACSM’s guidelines for exercise testing and prescription. 8th ed. Philadelphia (PA): Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2010.Google Scholar
  75. 75.
    Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology. Canadian physical activity guidelines (online). http://www.csep.ca/guidelines. Accessed 17 July 2011.
  76. 76.
    Sachs ML, Pargman D. Running addiction: a depth interview examination. J Sport Behav. 1979;2:143–55.Google Scholar
  77. 77.
    De Moor MHM, Beem AL, Stubbe JH, et al. Regular exercise, anxiety, depression and personality: a population based study. Prev Med. 2006;42:273–9.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. 78.
    Landolfi E. Girls’ underachievement in highs school science: a study examining attitudes and achievement in single-sex vs. coed schools (thesis). Toronto (ON): University of Toronto, 1997.Google Scholar
  79. 79.
    Spieker MR. Exercise dependence in a pregnant runner. J Am Board Fam Pract. 1996;9:188–221.Google Scholar
  80. 80.
    Blaydon MJ, Linder KJ, Kerr JH. Metamotivational characteristics of exercise dependence and eating disorders in highly active amateur sports participants. Pers Individ Differ. 2004;36(6):1419–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. 81.
    Adams J. Understanding exercise addiction. J Contemp Psychother. 2009;39:231–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. 82.
    Wichmann S, Martin DR. Exercise excess: treating patients addicted to fitness. Phys Sportsmed. 1992;20:193–200.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of KinesiologyUniversity of the Fraser ValleyAbbotsfordCanada

Personalised recommendations