Thursday, February 21, 2013

Can We Be Addicted to Exercise?

You know that feeling of accomplishment after a tough, grueling workout?  The feeling that you can conquer the world even though you were lying on the ground “dying” about 10 minutes ago?  That feeling you get when you can’t help but smile on mile 8 of a 10 mile run?   These feelings come to us thanks to the body’s own exercise coping mechanism, endorphins.

Endorphins are natural chemical compounds produced by the body’s pituitary gland. Endorphins are produced during exercise, anxiety, moments of excitement and pain. Endorphins work by preventing the body’s nerve cells from producing more pain signals, leaving us with a soothing after-effect.  In addition to acting as a coping mechanism, endorphins are known to decrease appetite, induce a euphoric feeling and decrease anxiety. That’s why if you’re overly stressed or anxious about something, going on a run or working out is a great way to clear your mind and relax your nerves.

Too much of a good thing…

We’ve all heard of endurance athletes getting a “runner’s high”. As a race or event progresses, participating athletes begin to gradually lose the ability to feel pain and are often overcome with a euphoric feeling to keep going.  That’s a runner’s high (and sometimes, our RuckStars get it during our tough courses!).

This is also commonly known as being “in the zone”; think Michael Jordan in the 1997 NBA finals when he had the flu. Research has shown that the more physically fit an athlete may be, the more receptive he or she is due to effects of endorphins. Additionally, as the demand for athletic performance increases, the amount endorphins released also increases. This correlation often has two side effects; the athlete is able to train harder due to a higher tolerance for pain. The other is that the athlete is exposed to high amounts of endorphins over long periods which can lead to endorphin addiction.

Can we be addicted to running?
Like anything, if you overdo it, you run the risk of developing an addiction. Addiction is commonly just associated with drugs, alcohol and substance abuse. When in reality, our body doesn’t need outside substances, it naturally contains addictive substances. An exercise addiction for example, occurs when someone develops a chemical dependence on the endorphins released from intense physical activity.
It may not seem like a bad addiction to have, but it can have severely adverse effects on one’s health.

Most exercise addicts aren’t aware of their addiction; they just believe they are living a healthy lifestyle, which, in theory, is good. But exercise addictions are a hidden addiction and can cause someone to overwork their body, even when injured. Their reasoning behind this is that they’ll only mentally feel better when they workout.  If they don’t, a feeling of low self-worth often sets in.

Being healthy is a good thing, but being healthy to the point of obsession is very unhealthy both mentally and physically. So in some ways, exercising addictions are just as damaging as substance addictions!

So how do you avoid exercise addiction?

They key to avoiding an addiction to exercise is by being aware and finding a balance. There is no need to beat yourself up for missing a day of exercise by going extra hard the next day. Being healthy isn’t just exercise either; it’s also important to have a healthy diet!

Here at Ruckus, we believe in living a healthy lifestyle, but we also believe you should be having fun while you do it. Because if you’re not having fun, what’s the point? If you’ve noticed that your exercise routine has become a chore, it’s time to infuse it with some fun!  And luckily for you, we have just the remedy!

Get more Ruckus tips & tricks on Twitter! @RuckusSports 

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