The Costs of Compulsive Exercise

compulsive exerciseWhat is compulsive exercise? Also known as anorexia athletica and obligatory exercise, this condition happens when a person exercises every now and then, even when there is no need for one. Exercise addicts struggle with anxiety and guilt if they do not work out. Illnesses, injuries, a holiday with family, hurricanes, earthquakes, alien invasion – none of these will stop them from exercising. Exercising takes over their lives because they plan life around it.

We need regular exercise to maintain health and fitness. But, as they say, anything in excess is harmful. Compulsive exercise can take a toll on your physical and mental well-being. Below are just some of the harms of excessive exercise:

Compulsive exercise can damage your body

Compulsive exercise can damage your joints, cartilage, bones, ligaments, and tendons. Minor injuries can lead to long-term damage. Too much exercise is also bad for your muscle. It will destroy muscle mass, not build it. This is especially true if your body is not getting all the nutrition you need.

It can disrupt hormonal balance

Compulsive exercise in girls and women can disrupt hormonal balance in their bodies. This can alter their menstrual cycles. Many girls, especially those who are being trained to be an athlete, also lose their periods altogether (amenorrhea). It can also lead to premature bone loss (osteoporosis), not to mention constant fatigue and exhaustion.

It is bad for the heart

Another serious risk that compulsive exercise can bring is the stress on your heart, especially when you are also engaging in damaging weight loss behaviors like vomiting and extreme dieting (restricting food intake and using diet pills). In extreme cases, compulsive exercise combines with anorexia to a fatal end.

It can cause anxiety and depression

Compulsive exercisers often feel anxious and depressed, having a negative view of themselves and feeling worthless. Their academic and social lives may also be affected since they are so fixated on exercise that they withdraw themselves from family and friends. Exercise is always their top priority. Nothing comes between them and exercise.

It can give birth to other compulsive behavior

Compulsive exercising can also lead to other compulsive behavior – from obsessive thoughts of perceived shortcomings to strict dieting. Many excessive exercisers are very preoccupied about improving themselves, keeping detailed journals on their exercise schedules. Too often, these behaviors compound each other, leaving the person in a downhill slope of low self-esteem.