There are many benefits of exercise, including
better health, longer life, more energy, and a better daily state of mind.
However, too much exercise can be a dangerous thing--leading to
irritability, increased risk of injury, and poorer physical and mental
performance. Obsessive exercise may indicate the presence of an eating
disorder, including anorexea nervosa or bulemia.
So when exactly does
a healthy habit become unhealthy? This question is difficult to answer,
but generally speaking, the benefits of exercise depend on three factors:
- Frequency: days per week on which you exercise
- Intensity:how hard your heart is working while you exercise
- Duration: how long you spend exercising during each session
Try to be physically active for 30-60 minutes, at least 5 days a week
Doubling your workout duration or
frequency does not necessarily double the benefits of your routine, and
may have emotional and physical consequences.
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The consequences of excessive exercise
Exercise is one of the best things you can do for your health today and tomorrow,
but excessive exercise can have physical consequences such as stress fractures,
tendonitis, joint and ligament injuries, and irregular menstruation.
There may be emotional and social effects as well.
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Where to draw the line
Are you exercising too much? So where is the line between just
right and too much? The line is different for different people, depending
- Your source of motivation or reason for exercise
- How exercise relates to the rest of your life, for instance, a career or sport
- Your attitude toward exercise, your body, and your health
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Signs and Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of excessive exercise include:
- Decreased performance
- Loss of coordination
- Prolonged recovery
- An elevated morning heart rate
- Loss of appetite
- Muscle soreness or tenderness
- Low self esteem
- Exclusion of other activities
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Profile of the exercise obsessed
The Excessive Exerciser will:
- Often choose to exercise beyond the requirements for good health
- Be fanatic about their weight and diet steal time from work, school, relationships, and social gatherings to exercise
- Focus only on the challenge and forget that exercise can be fun
- Define self worth in terms of performance
- Rarely or never be satisfied with athletic achievements
- Be unable to savor victory; always pushing on the next challenge
- Justify excessive behavior by defining self as a "special" elite athlete
- Use exercise compulsively to control weight
- Experience strong feelings of guilt or anxiety if unable to exercise
- Not allow time off to heal injuries
- Hide from emotional pain by working out
- Cause comment from friends and family about the amount of time engaged in physical activity
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Exercise Bulimia Quiz
If you are concerned that you may exercise too much, think about how you would answer the following
- Do you find that you regularly adjust your exercise according to how much you ate earlier or on the preceding day?
- Are you concerned to terrified about being overweight?
- Did your interest in exercise begin with a desire to lose weight?
- Do you fear not exercising each day because you think you'll gain weight?
- Are you preoccupied with food and calories and calculate what you are allowed to eat each day
according to how much time you can give to exercise?
- Have you gone on eating binges where you feel you cannot stop?
- Do you exercise an excessive amount after binge?
- Are you preoccupied with being thinner, and have a lower body mass/lean muscle ratio as elite athletes do?
- Do you think about burning aclories as you exercise?
- Do you ever vomit, take laxatives, or diuretics after a meal or binge to feel thinner or to
attempt to lose calories?
- Do you feel virtuous when dieting, restricting your dietary intake, or exercising?
- Do others tell you that you exercise too much?
If you answered even half of these questions
with a yes, you may be exercising too much. What to do: If you are
concerned that you or a friend are exercising to excess, it is important
to see a health professional, such as a doctor, trainer, or nutritionist.
A professional is likely to give you a medical examination in order to
identify any potentially serious complications, to advise you to take a
break from training, and to ensure proper nutrition.
This quiz is found at http://www.nutrifit.org/nutr_info/compulsiveex.html
From Hooked On Exercise: How to Understand and Manage Exercise Addiction Rebecca Prussin, MD, Phillip Harvey, PhD, and Theresa Foy DiGeronimo, Fireside/Simon & Schuster, c1992.
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When engaged in an active exercise program:
- Give yourself adequate time to rest and recover from exertion
- Maintain proper nutrition and hydration
- Have regular medical checkups
- Rest if you see any symptoms
- Try keeping an exercise diary at http://www.justmove.org/home.cfm
- Keep a healthy attitude toward exercise, realizing that it is only a part of your full and dynamic life!
- Find other outlets and activities for you energy
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Publications: "Compulsive Exercise and the Eating Disorder" by Alayne
Yates "Hooked On Exercise" by Rebecca Prussins
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