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When fitness becomes an obsession.

People often look at someone who exercises a lot as a healthy role model. Admiration can also follow. You may even hear the words ‘I wish I was addicted to exercise’.

But what happens when this healthy hobby becomes more of an unhealthy obsession? Have you considered how it can feel to be controlled and dominated by something external to yourself? It is a horrendous feeling. Your head is consumed non-stop by thoughts around your addiction. Exercise can become addictive. And it can totally take over someone’s life.

Young personWhen it comes to addiction people often think of things like alcohol and drugs.  Or they may consider things like food, work or sex. Exercise on the other hand does not usually come to the forefront of people’s minds.  It can however take over and become the only thing that matters to someone. Their whole identity can be defined by it. And before they know it, they find themselves saying no to social activities, isolating more and more, and find themselves dependent on the euphoric high of a work out in order to function.

Compulsive behaviours develop when people are struggling in their life. Stress and unhappiness can place a lot of pressure on people. When tension builds some people find it hard to cope, and to express their emotions/feelings. As a result they may turn to unhealthy behaviours to cope.


Exercise can begin as a healthy way of managing stress and coping with a difficult time in someone’s life. This can however turn into something a lot more extreme.  It is also common for people who live with an Eating disorder to become addicted to exercise.

Being addicted involves doing an excessive amount of exercise, and feeling high level anxiety if any workouts have to be missed. It can mean exercising even if a person has an injury, or is unwell. It can also mean spending more time exercising rather then engaging in any kind of personal or professional life.  A state of dependence can develop and if people are forced to stop for any reason withdrawal symptoms can occur.

If you feel that exercise is starting to take over your life, then the following may help you –

  • Try to accept that you have a problem – recognise that your behaviour is addictive.
  • Make a commitment to change the cycle that you are in and aim to work towards a healthier relationship with exercise.
  • Try to engage in different physical activities rather than rigid workouts. These include things such as yoga, meditation, gardening or walking.
  • Take time out in your week to do activities that calm your mind and body down. These can include things like painting/drawing, reading, keeping a journal etc.
  • Try to challenge your thought process. This takes time. But have some positive affirmations written down. Things to help you overcome this difficult time. ‘I can do this, I will do this’.
  • Aim to strike a good balance between the mind and the body. Keep focused on the bigger picture.
  • Remember that you are worth so much more then the physical punishment you are putting your body and mind through on a daily basis.
  • Look after your health – generally make sure you are eating moderately and well, and that you are sleeping and getting enough rest. This will all keep stress levels down.
  • Pick a new hobby – find something to focus on and engage in. Something that makes you happy – not something you feel you ‘have to do’
  • Set yourself realistic goals. Have things to aim for and look forward to.
  • Reach out for support – talk to your family and friends.  Try not to isolate. As you begin to break addictive cycles you will need people around you to talk to.
  • Seek counselling if you can. A professional therapist will help you understand why you have developed this relationship with exercise in the first place. And consequently they can help you to change it.
  •  Remember that while change is scary it can also be liberating. Pic Blog