Excessive Exercise

Exercise can be viewed as another healthy practice gone badly. It is unsafe. A student who makes multiple visits to an exercise facility in one day, who spends over one hour more than five days per week working out, who looks thin or gaunt, may be over exercising. A student who will miss class or a social engagement but not miss their work out, even if they are ill or injured, may have difficulty managing exercise appropriately. A compulsive exerciser often experiences light-headedness or dizziness. They may feel weak during workouts and at other times. Frequently, excessive exercise is accompanied by food restriction behaviors. This individual requires “re-training” of their relationship with exercise. They can be shown that exercise is about strength and fitness not about weigh loss.

Identifying Excessive Exercising in Eating Disorder Patients

While most eating disorder patients describe periods of exercising as a way of either counteracting the effects of eating or attempts at weight loss, excessive exercising has a number of characteristics which set it apart from typical exercise seen in this population. Excessive exercise is frequently a daily activity in which the person reports intense anxiety if they are unable to engage in the exercise activity. Those engaging in excessive exercise may plan out their day prominently focusing on exercise, scheduling other activities around their exercise goals. Those engaged in excessive exercise may reduce their social, school and work activities in order to exercise. Patients who engage excessive exercise often have significant problems with interpersonal, occupational, and academic functioning.

For those engaged in excessive exercise, the act of exercising can increase anxiety and stress. Excessive exercisers report that they often feel like they are not good enough, not fast enough or not pushing themselves hard enough during a period of exercise. They report feeling an intense pressure to increase the duration, intensity or difficulty of their exercise routine.

Even in the face of detrimental effects, excessive exercisers will continue to exercise. Excessive exercisers may miss out on promotions at work or lose jobs, or damage their relationships as the result of their excessive exercise. Strikingly, excessive exercisers will sometimes exercise in the face of physical damage, even recent bone fractures. In extreme cases, excessive exercisers will remove casts from their ankles or feet in order to continue to exercise.

(Information is taken from Eating Disorder Hope)


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