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Curr Pharm Des. 2014;20(25):4062-9.

Exercise addiction- diagnosis, bio-psychological mechanisms and treatment issues.

Author information

1
Senior Research Fellow, Department of Nuclear Medicine, Sourasky Medical Center, Tel Aviv 64239, Israel and School of Social Work, Tel Hai Academic College, Tel-Hai, 12210 Israel. avivweinstein@yahoo.com.

Abstract

Exercise and sports activity are beneficial both physically and psychologically but excessive exercise may have adverse physiological and psychological effects. There are methodological issues in the definition, diagnosis and etiology of exercise addiction. Several questionnaires and diagnostic tools have been developed and validated and they show high validity and reliability. Exercise addiction has been suggested as having an obsessive-compulsive dimension as well as rewarding aspects that may include it among the behavioral addictions. Biological studies show that in rodents, exercise such as wheel running activates the dopamine reward system and thus contributing to stress reduction. Further evidence suggests that running is associated with endorphins and cannabinoids thus explaining the "runners high" or euphoric feelings that may lead to exercise addiction. Genetic studies suggest that genes which control preference for drugs also control the preference for naturally rewarding behaviors such as exercise. Psychological studies also explain exercise addiction in terms of reward, habituation, social support, stress-relief, avoidance of withdrawal and reduction of anxiety. It has been suggested that exercise addiction is a part of a continuum of sportive activity that develops in stages from the recreational exercise to at-risk exercise, problematic exercise and finally into exercise addiction. Assessment and treatment should take into account the various stages of exercise addiction development, its comorbidity with other psychiatric disorders such as eating disorders or substance use and alcohol disorders. Treatment approaches for exercise addiction are based on the cognitive-behavioral approach but little is known about their effectiveness. A single-case study shows promise of pharmacological treatment for exercise addiction and further studies are required. This review summarizes diagnostic and phenomenology of exercise addiction with emphasis on physiological and neuro-pharmacological mechanisms responsible for its rewarding and addictive properties.

PMID:
24001300
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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