A blog by runners. For runners.

Are you addicted to running?

are you addicted to running?We’ve all gotten ragged on by our non-runner friends, “you’re still running? You run how far? What’s wrong with you? It sounds like you’re addicted to those endorphins.” While comments like these are usually said in jest, it is possible to become addicted to running.

Exercise addiction is no laughing matter, though. It’s just as serious as any other addiction, such as being addicted to alcohol or gambling.

Some people may argue that exercise addiction isn’t bad because physical activity is a healthy habit, especially since most people these days aren’t active enough. But as with any addiction, the addict literally cannot control his or her behavior. Someone addicted to exercise may run through a serious injury or sickness, knowing the consequences, because they feel like they have to run.

A fine line
There’s a difference between being a passionate, committed athlete and being addicted to training. However, the line between dedication and addiction is not always so clear. Just because you run every day or log 80 miles per week, it doesn’t mean you’re addicted to exercise. Plus, many runners run through injury and sickness, but that doesn’t necessarily make them addicts. In fact, experts estimate that only 3 to 22 percent of runners are truly addicted to exercise.

Most runners are able to successfully balance training with other life commitments. A devoted runner may wake up extra early on his daughter’s birthday to get in his long run before she wakes up. A runner with an addiction may miss out on some of the day’s celebrations because he feels like he should be exercising instead – or if he’s forced to miss the run, he’ll be unable to enjoy his daughter’s party because he feels so torn up about the skipped training session.

You may be at risk for exercise addiction if …
So, on which side of the line do you fall? There are several exercise addiction assessments out there, such as the following inventory developed by British researchers (here’s another exercise addiction checklist). You may be at risk for exercise addiction if you answer “yes” to several of these statements:

  • Running is the most important thing in my life.
  • Conflicts have occurred between me and my family and my partner about how much exercise I do.
  • I use running as a way of changing my mood.
  • Over time I have upped the amount of exercise I do in a day.
  • If I have to miss a run I feel moody, depressed, or irritable.
  • If I reduce the amount of exercise I do, and start again, I always end up exercising as much as I did before.

Even if you answered “yes” to all of these statements, it doesn’t mean you’re addicted to running. This tool just measures your risk, it’s not a diagnosis. There’s also a big gray area. It’s common for running to boost your mood, so many runners rely on it to do so. If you’re training for a marathon, of course you’re exercising more lately. If your loved ones don’t support your training, there’s a good chance there will be conflicts between you.

But if you feel like running controls you and not the other way around, you may have a problem. In that case, talk to your doctor. He or she can point you towards resources that will help.

Written by Jen Matz.