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The reality of exercise addiction

You’ve probably heard the term ‘gym rat' - people who spend several hours a day in the gym, and show up every single day, regardless of whether they’re feeling well enough to workout or not.

So, the obvious question is ‘is there such a thing as too much exercise and is being addicted to exercise a good thing’?

As a general rule, addiction in any form, to anything, is bad! That said, the depression alleviating effects of exercise through the release of endorphins is a well-documented scientific fact. For instance, runners will often keep going, despite discomfort, pain, and injury until they hit their ‘runner’s high’. In this manner, the human body survives through a constant struggle between catabolic forces (breakdown) and anabolic forces (building & repairing of tissue). When the balance tilts in favor of anabolism then one achieves gains in fitness, longevity, and good health.

Exercise is a catabolic activity. It leverages the body’s adaptiveness and response to strengthen it. Put the human body under any stress and it will generally try to adapt to it by getting stronger. Exercise is nothing but a controlled physical stressor on the body. Hence exercise acts as a catabolic trigger that forces the body to get fitter. This means that exercise acts to stimulate the process of altering body composition, while the actual transformation happens only when it is combined with sound nutrition. Exercise breaks down the body and, hence, overtraining without also ensuring you’re getting the right nutrition will not lead to optimal benefits - just as a small cut might become a larger wound if it remains untreated.

So, exercise by all means, but just don’t overdo it!

Exercise Tip: schedule your workouts so that you build in appropriate periods of rest for muscles that have been most recently worked out. For example, you can create a weekly workout schedule that looks like this:

  • Day #1: Cardio

  • Day #2: Chest, shoulders, triceps

  • Day #3: Cardio

  • Day #4: Back, traps, biceps

  • Day #5: Cardio

  • Day #6: Legs, glutes, abs

  • Day #7: Rest and recovery

  • Repeat this schedule next week

Rest & recovery completes the cycle

The other key input needed by the body to repair itself is rest and recovery. Following a proper schedule that incorporates the right rest periods between consecutive workouts is critical. If this isn’t done, the body’s rate of breakdown will always be faster than its rate of repair. In such a scenario, the body tends to get weaker with exercise. This is called a state of overtraining.

Create an exercise schedule similar to the Health Tip (above) to give your muscles sufficient time to recover until you train the same set of muscles again.

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