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Originally published Sunday, October 27, 2013 at 5:04 AM

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Signs you may be suffering from exercise addiction

To those affected, exercise addiction is a dangerous and unhealthful disorder that impacts their lives every day.

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On Health

Everywhere you look we are being told Americans are fat and we need to lose weight. We are told we need to stop making excuses, exercise more and make it happen no matter what.

The majority of Americans ignore this constant drone from media outlets, their doctors and columns such as mine, but for a growing number on the other end of the spectrum, fitting in their daily dose of exercise isn’t just a habit, it’s necessity.

Professionals recommend getting 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise most days of the week, but in the day and age of TV shows such as “The Biggest Loser” and “ making it seem as though losing weight is an all-or-nothing experience, it’s starting to seem normal to rack up three to six hours of daily physical activity between morning runs, yoga classes and trips to the gym — even for those who don’t have excess weight to lose.

To those on the outside, the dedication to fitness is inspiring, but to those affected, exercise addiction is a dangerous and unhealthy disorder that impacts their lives every day.

When making exercise a priority turns into an unhealthy obsession, this fixation on making “healthy” choices can lead to unhealthful and dangerous behavior that has more of a negative impact on your health, both physical and mental, than positive.

Exercise addiction is usually classified into two groups: over-exercisers and exercise bulimics. Over-exercisers often tend to be type A personalities who are very goal oriented. They tend to use exercise as a way to push themselves to their limits daily for the hit of endorphins, to have and reach a tangible goal and feel a sense of accomplishment.

Exercise bulimics often use exercise as a way to purge as many calories from their bodies as possible and will often starve themselves in addition to overexercising to lose weight.

Exercise addiction is a gray area, and what’s a good level of activity for some isn’t good for everyone. But it is generally agreed that if the compulsion to do any activity gets in the way of leading a normal life, it is an addiction and a problem.

Signs you may be suffering from exercise addiction:

• You feel an obligation to exercise, and you feel guilty when you can’t.

• You work out with an injury, or suffer from overuse injuries, because you don’t want to take time off.

• You exercise when you are sick, fatigued or don’t take rest days.

• You experience irregular or absent menstrual periods.

• You put exercise before work, family, friends or previous engagements.

• Your family and friends express concern over your exercise habit.

You should exercise because you love your body, not because you hate it. You should exercise to keep it strong and healthy, not to make it submit to the body type you think you should have.

Exercise is necessary to lead a healthy life, but a balance is also important. If you think you may have an exercise addiction, talk to your doctor about how to get help.

Kelly Turner is a fitness expert and freelance writer. Reach her on Twitter: @KellyTurnerFit, and Instagram: @KellyTurner26

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