Earlier this month, British singer and songwriter Ellie Goulding revealed in an Instagram post how her past exercise addiction left her feeling ‘miserable’. She shared her throwback picture at the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show in 2014, and captioned it, “Ah, good memories of being addicted to the gym, not worth it! By not worth it I mean… it was just kind of miserable. Now I just train to fight (sic).” Today, the 32-year-old leads a healthier lifestyle, and goes to the gym to harness her boxing skills. In today’s age, thanks to social media, there’s immense pressure on celebs and commoners alike to look great and have a good physique. But on the flip side, it can also lead to exercise addiction. Fitness experts tell us how to tread with caution.
WHAT IS EXERCISE ADDICTION?
According to a study by the Illinois-based Northwestern University, exercise releases neurotransmitters in the brain such as endorphins that can relieve pain or improve mood. But if a person is experiencing addiction to working out, missing just a single day can cause physical or psychological symptoms, such as depression, reduced vigour, increased tension, anger, and fatigue.
“When one is used to working out regularly and misses a few days, the body feels stiff. But some people tend to feel low, be irritable, angry and have mood swings if they don’t exercise even for a day. Also, when lay persons exceed their session beyond two hours, going beyond their physical ability, they are prone to injuries,” opines Shalini Bhargava, director at JG’s Fitness Centre.
Celebrity fitness trainer Yasmin Karachiwala feels that though on one hand, social media can spread the message of staying fit and motivate people, on the other hand, it can prompt them to set unbelievable fitness goals for themselves, which can lead to exercise addiction. “Commoners want to achieve a body like their favourite stars and fitness gurus within a short span of time. They don’t understand that it’s achieved after years and years of training, proper nutrition and under professional supervision,” she reasons out.
According to Leena Mogre, director, Leena Mogre’s Fitness, more than professionals from the glamour industry, lay people, especially women, are at a higher risk. Gym rats, as she calls them, spend hours at the gym, in some cases, doing office work and socialising in there too, and as a result, are prone to this syndrome. “When individuals with low self-esteem suddenly get people’s attention and compliments for how fit they look or they can’t get enough of the adrenaline rush post a workout session, or get a high from seeing their pictures on social media, they can be susceptible to exercise addiction,” she says. Also, they tend to avoid dining with friends and family because they don’t want to miss a single day of working out and are constantly worried about their diet.
All these fitness experts that we spoke to have often come across clients, who over exercise for three to fours instead of the ideal one hour. In such cases, they make them aware how it can be hazardous for them as it can lead to fatigue, burnout and make them prone to intense injuries. A lot of times, they have sent people home because they don’t stop over working out despite warnings. Mogre and her team have even issued letters to many asking them to seek counselling for their exercise addiction.