This can help if:
- You feel like exercise has become the most important thing in your life
- You feel anxious or stressed if you miss a workout
- You feel like you have to exercise even when you are injured or unwell
- You think about exercise a lot, especially when you're doing other things
When exercising becomes a problem
Regular exercise is important for our physical and mental health. But while exercise is good for us, we know that most of us aren't doing enough. In fact, around 90 per cent of young people aren’t meeting daily recommendations for physical activity.It seems we need to exercise more, but it's also important to know when it can be a problem.
Exercising too much (excessive exercise) or having strong urges to exercise (compulsive exercise) are signs that it might be taking over your life, rather than being a healthy part of it.
So how do you know when it’s a problem?
Well, an important question to ask yourself is 'why am I exercising?' Are you exercising because you want to stay healthy or it’s something you enjoy? If so, that’s great! But if you’re exercising because feel guilty or bad if you don’t, this could be a sign of something more serious.
Compulsive exercise can be linked to serious psychological illnesses such as eating disorders or obsessive-compulsive disorder. For example, being driven to exercise because of extreme concerns about weight or shape might be a sign of an eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa. Whereas, exercising because you fear that something bad will happen if you don't (like a loved one passing away or a car accident), this could be a sign of obsessive-compulsive disorder.
What does exercising too much look like?
- Healthy exercise is a part of your weekly routine; compulsive exercise is prioritising workouts over other things such as school, work family, friends or even sleep.
- Healthy exercise helps relieve stress; compulsive exercise can often be driven by stress.
- Compulsive exercise can be met with intense anxiety and guilt just at the thought of missing a workout; healthy attitudes to exercise might be feeling a little annoyed you weren’t able to make it to the gym.
- Somebody who exercises compulsively is likely to exercise while injured or sick; a healthy attitudes to exercise involves accepting that sometimes time out and resting is necessary to feel better.
It can be tricky to draw a line between what is healthy and what is too much and that’s why it is important to seek help. Speaking to a mental health professional can help you identify or understand why you might feel like you can’t stop exercising so much.
You can talk to you doctor to get a mental health care plan so you can visit a mental health professional for free. If you need to speak to someone right away you can call Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800.