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Too much exercise?

answered 09:03 AM EST, Fri August 26, 2011
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anonymous anonymous
Can there be such a thing as too much exercise?

My roommate likes to party and she can drink like a fish but then the next day she always calculates how many calories she needs to burn from the drinks and food she had the night before and then she works out like a freak for hours until she decides she is back to even. This can take her 2 or 3 hours and she does this most days of the week. It sounds weird that exercise would be harmful but there is something kind of obsessive and crazy about it – like there is no way that she would EVER miss doing that mega workout to burn those calories off, even if it were like finals week or whatever. Should I be concerned about her? Right now it‘s something we joke about but it seems less funny lately…

William Anderson Says...

You are a very good friend and very astute to sense that there is something wrong with your friend's binge/exercise habit. You may have a future in one of the health related fields.

Your friend is engaged in one of the forms of bulimia, bingeing on foods and drink, then working to "purge" them from the system. There are several forms the purging can take, and hyper-exercise is one of them. She is playing with fire, and it is no joke. This can turn into a serious disorder, which can be life threatening.

Exercise itself can be addictive, but combined with this characteristic of purging a binge, it is extremely dangerous.

It sounds like you are students, and most colleges and universities have health centers that offer counseling services to students. Counseling women for eating disorders like bulimia is one of their primary functions, and you will be amazed at how many of your peers are troubled by these disorders. You friend is by no means alone. You can go together, you as a support for your roommate, and it will be a great thing for both of you, very informative. Your lives will be better for it.

Almost anything that is rewarding can become addictive, where the habit starts to take over the person's life. They lose control of how much they do, and it progresses into amounts that can be unhealthy and even lethal. They always have to do more and there is never enough. They become slaves to it. The need to engage in the thing becomes their primary focus, takes priority over other things, even family and work. They obsess about it and need ever increasing amounts until the addiction becomes ruinous. It doesn't need to be a substance like alcohol or cocaine. It can be a behavior, like gambling, sex or exercise. Some people seem to be more predisposed to this phenomenon than others. When you find you have this sort of experience or tendency, it is best to talk with a professional about it.

All of us have habits that seem to develop a power of their own that keeps them going. Some are good, helping us to have a healthy and productive life. Some are destructive. When the habit is in control of the person, rather than the person being in control of the habit, it is not a healthy thing, regardless of habit. When it is destructive and unhealthy, it's a habit we need to extinguish. When we can't, we may need the help of a specialist in behavioral medicine. There are therapists who specialize in addictions, eating disorders and other behavioral disorders. Get hooked up with one and get healthy.

All of us get one kind of disorder or another. It comes with the territory of being human. The healthy people are the ones who have identified what needs to be fixed and get to work on it.

Best wishes

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Page last updated Aug 26, 2011

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