How exercise addiction could affect your life

July 12, 2011 9:05:44 PM PDT
It may sound super-healthy, but if you are hitting the gym several times a day, skipping events because they interfere with your workouts, those are signs of a possible problem.

It is called "exercise addiction."

Hilary Waller is in a good place now. She's a new mother, but the past decade has been a struggle.

"Physically I experienced extreme fatigue, exhaustion, light-headedness. I was aggravated, extremely moody," Hilary of Newtown, Pennsylvania said.

Hilary says she danced ballet for years, but when she realized she didn't have the typical ballerina body. She starting skipping meals and when she moved away from home, she coupled that with working out several times a day.

Kelly Pedrotty-Stump of the Renfrew Center says recently she seeing more women like Hilary with what she calls dysfunctional exercise habits.

"It's exercise that endangers your mind and body. It's typically when exercise takes precedence over your life experiences," Pedrotty-Stump said.

It's a problem, not just seen in women, but also now more often in men.

Sports psychologist Dr. Joel Fish says the media plays a role by glamorizing "ripped" and "shredded" bodies.

"The more images we see of what seems to be healthy, fit, attractive, I think more people are perhaps going to take too far and cross the line," Dr. Fish said.

Another reason he says is because fewer men are turning to performance enhancement pills, which is good, but because of that, some may be overcompensating at the gym.

"More isn't always better," Dr. Fish sadi.

In fact, 'more' can lead to physical injuries and other issues affecting someone's work and social life.

Pedrotty-Stump says it's not so much about how much time someone is exercising, but their mindset.

"When you're spending most of your day thinking about exercising or spending most of your day exercising, you start to miss social events," Pedrotty-Stump said.

Hilary says her social life tanked. Her friends couldn't relate to her.

Still Dr. Fish says for many people the obsession is easy to hide. After all, exercise is healthy.

But as it did in Hilary's case, it can spiral into a dangerous eating disorder.

Hilary's friend pushed her to get help at Renfrew.

"I was furious with her at the moment and yet I am alive because she was brave enough to put our friendship in jeopardy in order to help me," Hilary said.

Other signs of exercise addiction include working out despite illness or injury. Also, having a very strict workout regimen can be a sign, especially if someone is missing life events to fit it all in.

To help a friend who you think may have a problem, experts say you should not point out their appearance, but rather tell them you are worried about their behavior and help them find professional help.

For more information or how to find professional help, visit: