Too much of a good thing can be bad for you and excercise addiction is a reality.
What are some of the causes of exercise addiction, and who is at risk of this?
When somebody is not filling his/her day with their highest priority most productive actions from which they derive the greatest meaning and inspiration, they are more vulnerable to addictive behaviors in its various forms. Exercise addiction can be one such behavior when taken to the extreme. The executive center - the forebrain’s medial prefrontal cortex, moderates extreme, impulsive and addictive behaviors generated from hind brain regions below. When somebody is inspired and fulfilled, they become more masterful and self-governed. When they are unfulfilled, they tend to go to animal-like extremes. People can become addicted to anything they attach pleasure (endorphins), fantasy (serotonin) and rewards to (dopamine), when they are unfulfilled.
How can an exercise addiction develop?
Exercise addiction can begin if a person becomes unfulfilled in his / her relationship, career, financial life, social life… and they begin to receive acknowledgements, rewards, pleasures or exaggerated compliments from others when they begin to work out or exercise. If enough compliments or rewards are received from others, the desire for immediate gratification through exercise can take off and become an addiction.
Is this addiction a symptom of modern day living?
Things like social media, fast living and social pressure to look good are all so prevalent these days. Exercise addiction has been fueled partly by an abundance of socially active local gyms, media images of reshaped “perfect” bodies, YouTube videos of ideal shapes, online fitness and exercise clips and adverts with sex-driven images that reinforce competitive behaviors for enticing a mate or an achievement.
How can somebody overcome exercise addiction?
When somebody fills his / her day with high priority actions that bring fulfillment, inspiration and meaning, they are less vulnerable to immediate gratifying addictive behaviors. Addictive behaviors are a by-product of a person’s unfulfilled highest values. My advice is to determine what your highest values are and what is important to you and to fill each day with the most meaningful, inspiring, productive and purposeful actions possible. A person’s self-worth and meaning will rise with this behaviour and the need for outer recognition and reward will become more governed. Moderation in exercise is wisdom, but extremes can take their toll.