Compulsive Exercise

Friday, Aug 13  •  


Compulsive exercise is common amongst individuals dealing with an eating disorder and can be very difficult to treat. This is why at Avalon Hills, we work with our clients to treat all aspects of their health so that they can leave our facility and live a sustainable and happy life. 

What Is Compulsive Exercise? 

Compulsive exercise is when someone obsessively participates in physical activity. Other signs of abusive exercise include feeling unable to stop exercising or feeling intense emotional distress when not exercising. Someone dealing with compulsive exercise will continue to work out despite negative consequences, such as injury or relationship fatigue. 

Why is Compulsive Exercise Dangerous? 

Exercise is popular for its health benefits, however, when the drive to exercise stems from an eating disorder or an obsession, it can do more harm than good. Compulsive exercise can be isolating, pulling individuals away from their friends and family as they struggle with the urge to work out, even if it is damaging their relationships. This obsession is linked with poorer quality of life, increased risk of suicides, and increased risk of relapse for those who also have suffered from an eating disorder. Abusive exercise is also linked with the following emotional and physical risks: 

  • Bone density loss
  • Loss of menstrual period
  • Chronic joint and bone pain
  • Ongoing exhaustion
  • Weakened immune system
  • Anxiety and depression

Body Dysmorphia and Compulsive Exercise

It is commonly believed that only individuals with eating disorders struggle with disordered exercise. Although aggressive exercise is common among those suffering from an eating disorder, this is not always the case. People with body dysmorphia may also engage in abusive exercise. 

Body dysmorphia is a mental illness where someone may obsess over a perceived physical flaw that is hardly noticeable or not important to anyone else. This mental health condition could distort the way someone perceives their body shape or size. This condition could drive one to continue exercising in an attempt to change their body. 

If you or someone you know is exhibiting signs of excessive exercise and/or an eating disorder, it is ok to reach out for help. For more information about the Avalon Hills program, give us a call at 435-938-6060.