Exercise plays an important role in assisting in the management of mental well-being. Research exists that agrees with the idea that if we are regularly active the symptoms of depression may improve (Click here to read our previous blog on exercise and depression). If we then exercise harder, it sometimes makes us feel even better and this good feeling can both mentally and physically become addictive.
A recent practice article from Heather Hausenblas and James Smoliga in the British medical journal discusses ‘addiction to exercise’, where exercise is an essential element to every day. The discussion surrounding the difference between healthy regular exercise and an addiction to exercise is important especially when injury occurs, as a reliance on exercise is difficult to overcome.
Having a physio practice in a gym based environment means we have seen clients with a reliance on exercise to the point of it being an addiction. As a general observation it is more common now than 10 years ago, but a greater number of people have a level of awareness of their need to exercise. The greatest time of concern with exercise addiction relates to when injury occurs and the ability to exercise has decreased.
Managing an unhealthy reliance on exercise involves starting with reflecting on the motivation or reasons for needing to exercise. What are your goals for exercising? If an exercise addiction is present, then we do not need to stop exercising, but rather understand the reasons and work towards a healthy exercise routine with less risk of injury and improved health benefits. Hausenblas refers to it as reducing the rigidity of an exercise routine. If you are over-reliant on running, then we may try to change the exercise routine initially and replace a run with a swim. Gradually work towards a healthy volume of exercise is the goal.
If you are reliant on exercise and don’t feel you can stop then discuss it with your GP or a psychologist. Alternatively give us a call and we can discuss your exercise routine. We will not ask you to stop but can assist with strategies to start moving towards a healthy exercise routine.
Housenblas H, Shreiber K, Smoliga J. (2017): Addiction to exercise. The British Medical Journal. http://www.bmj.com/content/357/bmj.j1745