Prevalence of Risk for Exercise Dependence: A 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.

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Fig. 1

Data availability

Data sharing is not applicable to this article as no datasets were generated or analysed during the current study.


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The authors thank Professor Bruce Jones for revising the document.

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Correspondence to Adilson Marques.

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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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Marques, A., Peralta, M., Sarmento, H. et al. Prevalence of Risk for Exercise Dependence: A Systematic Review. Sports Med 49, 319–330 (2019).

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