Exercising too much

We all know that exercise is good for us, but it can become a problem when done excessively. You can tell if your exercise habits are unhealthy by keeping a look out for these signs. If you still can't slow down, there's also help available.

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
couple running

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.

Getting help 

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.

What can I do now?

  • Self care is an important part of looking after yourself. Take time out to do something you enjoy!
  • Talk to someone you trust about what’s going on such as a friend, family member or teacher. 
  • Research about eating disorders on the National Eating Disorders Collaboration website

Last reviewed: 06 November, 2015
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  • Quantum    (327 days ago)

    Please add in that if a person has ADD or ADHD and they exercise a lot it can actually be helpful... or at least mention that its highly likely they will find a lot of exercise not only positively mood altering, but essential... they will also exercise more than the average person which could be construed to be excessive by some who do not understand why they are doing... ADD or ADHD often goes undiagnosed so the individual has had to manage their often crazy life and have found exercise improves how they feel generally... remember lots of well known sports people have ADD or ADHD and its saved their lives...! How do I know - I have as an adult only recently found out I am ADD and have done all the above things... Just my thoughts...