Rachel Frederickson, of the American reality TV show The Biggest Loser, lost a tremendous 155 pounds (70 kilos) in a short time, and currently weighs in at 105 pounds (48 kilos) – which categorizes her as too thin for her height. When does rigorous exercise become too much? Staying on track is one thing, but is it possible to have an unhealthy addiction to exercise?
With over 500 million adults suffering from obesity around the world, it’s hard to imagine that getting too much exercise might be a problem. But, as reported on Thefix.com, that is the conclusion some experts come to when considering how some people are driven to over-exercise.
Two cases illustrate the issue. First, a star of the American reality TV show The Biggest Loser, Rachel
Frederickson lost a tremendous amount of weight in the televised weight-loss competition. She ultimately lost a total of 155 pounds (70 kilos), and currently weighs in at 105 pounds (48 kilos). What ordinarily would be a laudable achievement has become a cause for concern. Her ideal body weight, based on her height, should be in the region of 108 to 132 pounds (49 to 60 kilos). Moreover, while she has lost weight, she likely has not dealt with the issues underlying her overeating. Compulsive exercise, albeit healthier than overeating, has become her replacement for compulsive eating.
Another case shows more directly the causal link as well as the dangers of over-exercise. Katherine Schreiber, a 25-year-old graduate student in New York City, has suffered from a stream of addictions. As a teenager, she used drugs – when she was put in rehab, she turned to controlling her caloric intake and became anorexic. Later, she developed a need to exercise for at least two hours a day, despite a herniated disc and heat stroke.
Experts say that what drives the need to exercise is similar to other addictive behaviors. An underlying genetic tendency and overstimulated reward centers in the brain combine to make the addictive behavior become the single outlet for stress management and a feeling of control. The end result is addiction. In most cases, addiction is seen negatively. Not so with exercise – it is praised even when it is excessive or destructive.
While not carrying its own diagnostic criteria, excessive exercise is understood to be problematic when it interferes with a person’s healthy functioning. For most people, getting regular exercise is not only desirable, but something that is missing from their lives. Keep that in mind when considering whether you have a problem. Here are a few indicators that you may be compulsively exercising:
- You skip social engagements in order to workout.
- You take time off work in order to exercise.
- You exercise as your exclusive way to manage unpleasant emotions and thoughts.
- Thinking about exercise takes up a lot of your time, even while you are away from the gym.
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