Exercise – is your relationship with it unhealthy?

Exercise. It’s common knowledge that exercise is a part of a healthy lifestyle. But did you know that exercise can be unhealthy? I know, sounds strange but hear me out…

While exercising regularly is generally a healthy activity, there is a point where exercise can become unhealthy. This point is when people perform excessive amounts of exercise to the detriment of their physical health₁.

Types of Exercise Disorders

There are three main types of exercise disorders, these are:

  1. Anorexia Athletica : This is when an individual feels compelled to exercise beyond the point of benefitting one’s body. Individuals will participate in athletic activities regardless of pain, injury or illness, and will try to arrange their lives in order to maximise workout time₁.
  2. Exercise Bulimia : This is when an individual has binge eating sessions that are followed by periods of high-intensity exercise₁.
  3. Body Dysmorphic Disorder : This is an anxiety disorder that causes a person to have a distorted view of how they look and spend a lot of time worrying about their appearance₁.

Signs of Over-exercising

The increasing use of social media means we are constantly comparing ourselves to ‘influencers’ in the fitness industry. It has become even more important to be able to recognise when you, or someone you know, is over-exercising. Some signs are:

  • You have rigid rules around exercise which affect your daily routine and relationships.
  • Feeling of guilt for missing a day of exercise.
  • Not letting yourself get enough rest.
  • You feel tired (mentally and physically) but exercise anyway.
  • You track your exercise in terms of calories burnt rather than basing it on performance.
  • You’re injured and still exercise.
  • A desire to experience euphoria – exercise intensity may increase as the tolerance of the euphoric state increases.

What to do if you’re over-exercising

Everyone is different, and there is no pill that can fix an unhealthy relationship with exercise. If you think you may be over-exercising then I would suggest looking for some support, either from a friend or a professional. In severe cases treatment with a psychotherapist may be needed. As with most behavioural addictions or disorders the key is a shift in mindset (which I understand isn’t easily done as is said), and the first step towards that is simply recognising you may have an unhealthy relationship with exercise.

If you’re feeling triggered by this blog are looking for someone to talk to, please feel free to get in touch. I have had an unhealthy relationship with exercise in the past so may be able to relate and lend some support.

Love Emma x


  1. Netdoctor, 2016, online, https://www.netdoctor.co.uk/healthy-living/fitness/a26637/unhealthy-relationship-with-exercise/

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *