Excessive exercise can lead to detrimental effects on physical and mental health, ANNDDDDD, a sedentary lifestyle can also lead to adverse health effects. What on earth are we to do? How do we find balance between the two?…
So much research has been done on the impact of having little physical activity in your life, but there is little research evaluating the effects of excessive exercise. NOW HOLD ON JUST ONE MINUTE – if you’re like… “I’m just gonna stop reading now because I don’t even like exercising, this does not relate to me at all”. My questions to you are: Why don’t you like exercise? What has your relationship been like with exercise in the past? Have you jumped in too quickly to challenging workouts that made you feel ‘out of shape’? Have you been injured while working out? Do your exercise habits come and go – intense for a period of time and then non-existent? BECAUSE to me, that is in the same realm of this research – no matter where you fall on the spectrum of inactive to dependent, I believe that we deserve access to balance of both rest and movement in our lives in order to show up as the truest expression of ourselves. So, now that you’re on board – how do we get there?
What is exercise dependence, and why is no one talking about it?
- Craving or compulsion for physical activity
- Excessive exercise
- Leads to detrimental outcomes on physical, social, and psychological wellbeing
- Increased rates of exercise participation
- Similar symptoms to substance use or other behavioural addictions (drugs, gambling, sex, etc.)
- Symptoms might include: increased tolerance, withdrawal symptoms, continuing despite physical pain or discomfort, and a high-rate of relapse (you say you’re going to take some time off from exercising and then you can’t because of the afore mentioned challenges)
Because, like opiates, the brain can literally get addicted to intense exercise – A.K.A “runner’s high”. The more you do, the more likely you are to developing a higher tolerance, then your brain wants you to increase the intensity, duration, and frequency of the exercise to attain that “runner’s high” feeling. It’s literally developed a dependence on the beta-endorphin activity in the nervous system.
So, even if you aren’t someone who struggles with exercise dependence, it could also look like: pushing through pain, failing to make time for other important priorities because you have to make time to exercise, obsessing over movement during lunchtime at work or excessively taking the stairs, activity tracking “getting your steps in”, excessively walking your dog, planning to take a rest and recovery day but then deciding to do an intense workout instead, only being interested in one type of movement and continuing to engage in it even if you’re feeling tired or bored of it.
Who is at risk of developing a difficult relationship with fitness, body image, and food? Well, based on the research…
PEOPLE PLEASERS! That’s right, the research shows that if you’re someone who cares more about what others think, puts the needs of others before your own, is constantly considering your responsibility to others, and if you struggle to set boundaries or use exercise as your sole coping tool for stress relief – your relationship with movement could be harmful to you. Do you ever think, “oh it’s OK for Suzy to take a day off from her diet and exercise but it’s definitely not OK for me” – yeah, those are self-punishing thoughts. You deserve to speak to yourself the same way that you speak to Suzy, your other friends, your family, your kids, etc. You deserve to have a compassionate and understanding relationship with yourself.
What to do if you’re struggling with finding balance in your exercise routine
- Take a break or a step back from social media
- Detach from the feedback of others – positive or negative
- Develop a compassionate relationship with yourself where you truly care to nourish your body, move it when it feels right and rest it when it feels good to do so
- Develop other ways of increasing your self-esteem – try new ways of exercising, read, research, see friends, take a class, set other goals! Promote your physical, social, and mental wellbeing.
- The research suggests that having hobbies and engaging in recreational activities (other than exercise) can increase your performance when exercising, and can have a favorable impact on longevity
- Go to therapy – look for a therapist who provides Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) or Schema Therapy to address these concerns from a behaviour/addictions perspective
Other Ways to Release Endorphins (hormones that suppress pain & stress)
- Listening to music
- Acupuncture or other treatment modalities that involve getting energy moving
- Having sex
- Finding ways of moving your body that you enjoy
Join me for my Specialty Holiday Clinics – online via Zoom – email me by clicking this link to register by December 22, 2021
- Tuesday Dec. 21 – Breathwork, stretching, and meditation @ 6PM-7PM
- Thursday Dec. 23 – HIIT Cardio Sweat @6PM-7PM
- Monday Dec. 27 – Strength Training @5:30PM-6:30PM
- Friday Dec. 31 – HIIT Cardio Sweat @9AM-10AM
- Sunday Jan. 2 – Breathwork, stretching, and meditation @9AM-10AM
Rankin, R.M., Read, P.A., Walker, B.R., & Rankin, P.M. (2019). Other directedness and impaired limits: The impact of early maladaptive schema on exercise dependence. Current Psychology, 40, p. 2161–2173. doi: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-019-0139-1