Compulsive Exercise: Potential Medical Complications and Treatment

The general perception in our society is that exercise is something that is beneficial and healthy. Many health organizations support and encourage daily physical activity to stay well and as a preventative means of developing many chronic diseases. With all the benefits that have been shown to come with exercise, can there be such as thing as too much exercise? Can taking exercise to the extreme actually be more harmful then helpful?

Compulsive Exercise Can Be Dangerous

Many individuals who struggle with bulimia often use exercise as a means of “purging” or compensating for calories and food that have been eaten. While purging methods can vary from self-induced vomiting to excessive laxative/diuretic use to compulsive exercise, a person struggling with bulimia will characteristically exhibit reoccurring binging and purging behaviors.

For some individuals, exercise can be a method of counteracting a binge or an attempt to purge the body after engaging in a binging episode.

Compulsive exercise can be potentially dangerous, particularly if a person is continuing to exercise strenuously or excessively while injured or sick. Warning signs of compulsive exercise may include having extreme exercise regimens or rules for working out, feeling anxious or depressed if exercise is missed, even for a short period of time, spending an majority of time exercising and working out, missing out on important functions, social activities, responsibilities and obligations in order to exercise, and continuing to exercise even when injured or in pain.

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Compulsive Exercise Can Damage Your Health

Man practicing trail running in a coastal landscapeCompulsive exercise can lead to a myriad of health complications by increasing the risk of sickness, fatigue, and injury. Extreme exercise can also lead to malnutrition, insomnia, mood disorders, and amenorrhea, or an absence of a normal menstrual cycle in females.

Relationships, career, and social life can also be damaged by compulsive exercise, as exercise and working out begins to take higher priority in one’s life.

Whether you may be struggling with compulsive exercise on its own or as part of bulimia nervosa, seeking out professional treatment is necessary for preventing more serious health and medical complications from occurring. If you have found yourself struggling with compulsive exercise, be sure to confide in someone you trust to begin the process of getting help.

Crystal Headshot 2Crystal is a Masters-level Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with a specialty focus in eating disorders, maternal/child health and wellness, and intuitive eating. Combining clinical experience with a love of social media and writing, Crystal serves as the Special Projects Coordinator for Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope, where her passion to help others find recovery and healing is integrated into each part of her work.

As a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Crystal has dedicated her career to helping others establish a healthy relationship with food and body through her work with EDH/AH and nutrition private practice.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on January 14, 2016
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