No Pain, No Gain? Exercise Obsession

By Justine Carmine
Lifestyles Editor

Ever since the reality of obesity hit Americans, everyone has stressed the terms: diet and exercise. While sticking to an exercise program has enormous benefits, how much is too much? There is a difference between being motivated and being addicted. An exercise addiction can lead to sports-related injuries and it is also linked to eating disorders.

People tend to overlook over-exercising because in our culture it is seen as a good thing. Marlee Stefanelli from the Student Development and Counseling Center states, “Exercise is idealized. Since it is seen as something healthy and positive people normalize it. However, there are health consequences.”

According to Men’s Health, the factors that cause eating disorders are generally the same with over-exercise. Many people who work out too much have a negative body image and work to the extreme to try to change that. Instead of starving or purging, over-exercisers eat and then feel the need to work it off immediately.

Exercise raises the endorphins in your body, so frequent exercisers feel a natural “high” whenever they work out. However, soon they need to work out for longer periods of time to maintain that high. Unfortunately, your body gets accustomed to the frequent work-outs and instead of your muscles growing, micro-tears are forming, which can lead to torn muscles and injury. However, when you rest your body, muscles heal and grow, which is the outcome many seek when they over-work their body.

Exercise addiction can not only cause physical harm, but social harm as well. You may start putting working-out at the top of your priority list, neglecting work, school, friends, and family, and your social life. Stefanelli states, “People can definitely develop anti-social tendencies when it starts to interfere in other areas.” You may also experience symptoms of anxiety and guilt if you miss a day. When exercising is the only thing getting you through a day, you need to find a healthy balance where you can work out and also focus on other priorities such as friends and family.

Another reason why so many people are over-exercising is because it makes you look good! In our society, having those six-pack abs are crucial and revered. How many times have we seen Bow-flex and Hydroxycut commercials? Some people believe that the harder you work out, the better you’ll look. Although lifting weights and doing pilates tones and defines your body, you have to have a resting day in-between workouts so your muscles can grow and strengthen. It’s definitely gratifying when you see your abs or thighs looking more defined and toned, but you have to stop and take a breather or else your body will adapt and it will take longer to see results.

How can you tone down your work-outs? Try working-out every other day instead of every day. It may be hard to do, but once you get into the routine you’ll enjoy the free time and you will look and feel better. Re-connect with family, go out with friends, or pick-up an extra shift at work; these are also things that will make you feel good. If you still can’t seem to get away from the gym, Stefanelli suggests talking to counseling. You can still work-out, but finding a healthy balance is the key.