Is it possible to be addicted to exercise?

In your workout routine, are you doing more sets than necessary? Is it possible that you've lost sight of your initial motivation for working out and have become obsessed with your physical appearance even if it means putting your health at risk?

Exercise addiction is real. The manic pursuit of physical activity despite physical, emotional and social side-effects are all signs that the gym is becoming an unhealthy place for you.

Exercise addiction is more common among triathletes, runners and people with eating disorders. While it isn’t an official mental disorder, there’s a link between compulsive exercise and disordered eating that often go hand-in-hand. 

Being able to identify signs early may help you stop the cycle before it reaches the level of addiction. 

How much IS too much

Missing a workout makes you irritable, anxious or depressed. This is the first warning sign. It doesn’t matter if you went to the gym every day – if missing out just one day makes you frustrated and disrupts your mood, we have a problem. 

You change plans to accommodate your workout schedule. People who are obsessed with the gym often change their plans or plan activities to ensure it doesn’t coincide with gym time. Turning down family, social and work events, school, or personal responsibilities because of the need to exercise is a telltale sign of exercise addiction.

You'll do yourself more harm than good if you skip rest days and go to the gym seven days a week, because you won't have enough time to recover. Recovery or rest days are important for a balanced mood, muscle recovery and overall mental health. 

Do you feel super guilty on “cheat days”? Ding dong, bad sign! If you exercise too frequently and intensely to compensate, or punish yourself for your daily food intake or cheat days, you're developing unhealthy exercise habits.

An unrealistic body image (body dysmorphia) can lead to both over-exercising and eating disorders. While hard work and consistency can yield great results, your health is important and should be monitored. 

If you relate to any of these points, there’s help for you.

See a professional

Striking a balance between healthy and obsessive exercise can be difficult, but that's okay - professional help from your doctor or a mental health expert can be the first step in the right direction. By seeking support, you will be able to identify unhealthy habits, and understand your relationship with food and your efforts to transform your body.


Exercise should be enjoyable, not a chore or something you must do even if you’re sick, tired or busy. Take the time to recalibrate your reasons for working out and how you can associate it with a healthier point of view.


This article is for informational purposes only. Always check with your doctor or medical practitioner about any health concerns, before embarking on any fitness or nutrition programme, and usage of any medication.