Signs You Have an Exercise Addiction


nPine/Getty Images

nPine/Getty Images

For those who loathe working up a sweat, exercise addiction may sound like all but a blessing. (You must be in great shape, right?) But for those who spend their entire day and energy either exercising or talking and thinking about their next workout, exercise turns from a healthy hobby to an obsession. 

For Katherine Schreiber, she knew her routine went from hobby to addiction when, despite a herniated disc in her back and a stress fracture in her foot, she continued to work out—running, using the stair master and elliptical, lifting weights, and attending yoga class regularly. She was stressed and exhausted from going to the gym two or three times a day. “My days revolved around my exercise schedule,” she said. “I couldn’t travel because I would be too concerned with getting to the gym.”

While Katherine’s story is one example, not all cases of exercises addiction read the same. To spot the problem, Katherine joined forces with exercise addiction researcher Heather Hausenblas, Ph.D. to write “The Truth About Exercise Addiction ” and create a sort of guidebook—the first of its kind. “I decided to write the book because there was such scant information out there about exercise addiction when I tried to understand what I was up against,” Katherine says. Included in the book are seven signs to look for when self-diagnosing. Find out if your triathlon training is reaching dangerous levels.

1. Tolerance: Needing more and more of the same activity to achieve the initial anxiety-reducing effects or to feel as if you’ve done ‘enough.’ Yoga wasn’t enough. An hour on the elliptical will be just enough.

2. Continuance: Continuing to exercise despite injury, illness and exhaustion. Shin splits won’t stop my marathon training.

3. Withdrawal: Anxiety at the mere thought of taking an off day (and irritability atop extreme discomfort in one’s skin when unable to get to the gym as planned).

4. Time: Spending a noticeably exorbitant amount of time working out (i.e. it consumes a lot of a person’s day—not just in terms of getting to the gym, but in terms of planning, thinking about it, obsessing or worrying over it), repeatedly.

5. Intention Effect: Repeatedly exceeding the amount of time you planned on spending at the gym—always going over. Happy hour can wait. I need 10 more squats.

6. Lack of Control: The sense that your workouts are ruling your life and you can’t stop working out.

7. Reduction in Other Activities: Engaging in few, if any, activities that aren’t related to exercise. Happy hour can wait indefinitely.

For more information on this underrepresented illness and how to find a cure like Katherine did, check out her book, “The Truth About Exercise Addiction .”

Read more: Can You Really Boost Your Metabolism?