Why are some people addicted to exercising

By M.Farouk Radwan, MSc.

Addicted to exercising

Exercising can provide a great mood boost to most people. As soon as a person gets used to exercising his body chemicals change and as a result his pain endurance becomes higher and his mood improves.

Because physical pain and emotional pain are directly connected the person who exercises regularly experiences less emotional pain.

Because of all of these benefits a person might start becoming addicted to exercising, But this is not the type of addiction i am talking about today but am rather talking about the situation where people get addicted to exercising for psychological reasons.

Exercising addiction might not be a bad habit but understanding it more and knowing the reasons behind it will help you prevent this addiction from controlling your life and affecting other areas in it.

When exercising addiction really takes over someone it results in letting him sacrifice his time for the sake of exercising while ignoring lots of other important activities like socializing or even spending time with his wife.

As a general rule people spend more time doing something when they feel that didn’t get all what they want out of it.

Addiction and unmet needs

The workaholic who works for 12 hours each day is a person who didn’t achieve all of his career dreams yet and that’s why he spends more than he is supposed to at work trying to make his dreams come true.

The popular guy who is addicted to socializing is actually a person who has unmet social needs that he didn’t fulfill yet even though he appears to be very popular. See Unmet needs psychology.

Now back to exercising, most probably you got addicted to exercising because you didn’t achieve all of the goals you wanted to achieve through exercising. Maybe you want to grow bigger, you want to look better or maybe your six packs aren’t as the ones that were in your dreams.

Chemical addiction

People get addicted to drugs because they change their brain chemistry in a pleasant way. Exercise also does the same but unlike drugs it does it in a good way.

When a person exercises many feel good chemicals are released in the body such as endorphins and serotonin. Once a person experiences that mood boost he got as a result of those chemicals he might get addicted to the process of exercising since it makes him feel good. See Hormones that make you happy.

In addition to all that exercising is seen as a positive thing and so a person never feels guilty in having that kind of addiction. In fact people are conditioned by others to feel guilty when they don't exercise.

Body image issues and exercise addiction

Body image issues are very common among exercise addicts. Many people think that they are over or under weight while in reality they are ordinary people. As a result of a mental problem that let's those people see their bodies differently some people become addicted to exercise to change their body shapes. See Treading body image issues.

The problem with those people is that no matter how their looks change they still believe that they don't look good. The body image problem is usually mental and as a result the person always seems himself through a certain lens , because of his false perception, no matter how his looks change.

Because that person never feels that he has changed his addiction becomes stronger and stronger. Anorexia nervosa is one popular disorder where a persons thinks that he is overweight no matter what he really looks like.

Addiction and knowing your direction

The good news in here is that this kind of addiction is healthy because it’s the opposite of being helpless. You are motivated to exercise to the extent that you became addicted to it and this shows that you believe that you can reach your goals by spending more time in the Gym.

If you had no clue about what you should do in order to change your body shape you would have felt helpless then indifferent then depressed, but because you knew the solution you just became addicted to it. (see Why do i lack motivation?).

If I were you I would focus on making my training much more effective so that I can still achieve the same results in less time. Get the help of a professional trainer or even use online videos and as soon as you feel satisfied with your progress your addiction will ease.

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