Exercise is a healthy habit you can never get too much of, right? Not so fast. Although the American Psychiatric Association classifies only gambling as an official behavioral addiction, obsessive exercise is an addictive pattern too and one that can wreak havoc on your health and well-being. A constant urge to work out can control your life and lead to overtraining syndrome, a condition that causes chronic pain, mood disturbances, and metabolic imbalances due to excessive exercise. The good news is you can overcome an exercise obsession with simple changes to your thinking and approach to fitness. These five steps, detailed by Toronto fitness and nutrition expert Gabriel Patterson, will help.
Recognize That You’re Addicted to Exercise
Many signs point towards an unhealthy obsession with exercise. Some of the most common include making yourself exercise even if you don’t feel well, panicking when you can’t exercise, extending your workouts, and missing important events and engagements to accommodate exercise. Take an honest look at your exercise behaviors and ask yourself whether they’re healthy or obsessive. Overcoming a fitness addiction begins with recognizing you have one.
Address the Underlying Issue
Like many addictive habits, obsessive exercise usually has an underlying cause. Depression, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive behavior, and poor body image are all common triggers for exercising too much; however, your reason may be as simple as craving the natural high you get from exercise. Once you address what’s behind your fixation, you’ll be much more successful at putting an end to it and learning new ways to exercise at a healthy pace and level.
Find Healthy Alternatives to Exercise
Many of the benefits of exercise can be gained by doing activities that don’t involve working out but that satisfy the urge to. For example, try engaging in hobbies that make you feel good, like journaling or gardening. Or, focus your energy on cooking nutritious foods and meal planning for a fun and fulfilling way to sustain a healthy lifestyle. Meditation and mindfulness are other alternatives to exercise that can help with weight management, stress reduction, and mental health concerns.
While there are worse things to be addicted to than exercise, having an exercise obsession can negatively impact your life. Remind yourself that you possess the power to conquer your problem, as long as you remain steadfast. Stay strong in your conviction to get better; people who beat their addictions do so because of determination and perseverance. If you slip up, don’t get discouraged. Instead, dust yourself off and get right back on course.
Seek Help and Support
Anyone can overcome an exercise addiction, but you may not be able to do it without help. Be open with friends and loved ones about your obsession with exercise and ask them to guide and support you. They may be enough to turn things around, but you may need to seek assistance from a healthcare provider. Therapies for addictive behaviors, including cognitive behavior therapy, are highly successful. Don’t be too proud to get professional help when it comes to your health.
As Gabriel Patterson discussed above, constantly thinking about exercise and overworking your body can harm your health and well-being. Avoid succumbing to a fitness addiction by taking the steps you need to exercise healthfully.