Is exercise addiction in fitness centers a socially accepted behavior?

Mia Beck Lichtenstein, Bolette Emborg Jannsen, Simone Daugaard Hemmingsen, Nina Beck Hansen

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Background Fitness exercise is popular and associated with improved health and social status. Taken to extremes, however, exercise can become an addiction. One suggested symptom of exercise addiction is “conflicts” with family and friends. However, it may be difficult to recognize excessive exercise patterns if they are accepted and encouraged by relatives. The aim of this study was to explore if fitness exercisers with a high risk of addiction experienced the same level of exercise support as exercisers with a low risk of addiction. Furthermore, we wanted to examine if social support affected the subjective reporting of “conflicts”. Method A total of 577 fitness exercisers completed the Exercise Addiction Inventory (EAI) and two questions asking about “exercise support from family and friends” and “present eating disorder”. Results Exercisers at high risk of exercise addiction reported the same level of support from relatives as those at low risk. Exercisers with high levels of exercise support reported significantly fewer conflicts, even if they were at high risk of addiction. If an eating disorder was present, the level of exercise support was significantly reduced. Conclusion Exercise addiction might be difficult to identify with the general behavioral addiction symptom “conflict”, since exercise is socially accepted even in subjects with high risk of exercise addiction. If an eating disorder is present, the exercise routines seem to be interpreted as socially undesirable. Screening for exercise addiction with the EAI should take into account that fitness exercisers rarely report conflicts, which could result in false negative cases.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAddictive Behaviors Reports
Pages (from-to)102-105
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017


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