What Is Compulsive Exercise? Compulsive exercise (sometimes called exercise addiction) happens when a person is driven to exercise too much. Injury, illness, going out with friends, or bad weather will not stop those who compulsively exercise. Why Do Kids Exercise Too Much? Regular exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. But athletes may be driven to exercise more and more to improve their sports performance. Personal goals, coaches, teammates, or parents may pressure athletes to push themselves too far. Compulsive exercising and eating disorders often go hand in hand. In addition to extreme dieting, someone with an eating disorder may workout excessively to lose weight. Someone with bulimia may use exercise as a way to compensate for binge eating. Some people believe they can achieve an impossible ideal body type if they keep exercising. What Problems Can Compulsive Exercise Cause? Compulsive exercise can lead to: Injuries, including overuse injuries and stress fractures. In some girls, female athlete triad.This means they lose a lot of weight, have irregular periods or no periods (called amenorrhea), and lose bone density (osteoporosis). Unhealthy weight loss behaviors, such as skipping meals or drastically reducing calories, vomiting, and using diet pills or laxatives. Social isolation, because working out always comes first. Compulsive exercisers may skip homework or time with friends and family to exercise. Anxiety and depression. Performance pressure, low self-esteem, and lack of other interests contribute to emotional problems. What Might Parents Notice? Parents might notice that their child: won't skip a workout, even if tired, sick, or injured can’t take time off and seems anxious or guilty when missing even one workout is preoccupied with his or her weight and exercise routine has lost a significant amount of weight exercises more after eating a lot or missing a workout eats much less if he or she can't exercise skips seeing friends, gives up other activities, and abandons responsibilities to make more time for exercise seems to base self-worth on the number of workouts completed and the effort put into training is never satisfied with his or her own physical achievements has irregular periods or stress fractures How Is Compulsive Exercise Diagnosed? It can be hard to diagnosis compulsive exercise. There is no agreement on how much exercise is too much. A person who continues to exercise in spite of injury, health problems, or poor relationships may have an exercise addiction. How Is Compulsive Exercise Treated? A therapist can help someone with an exercise addiction change unhealthy behaviors, work on exercise moderation, and find coping strategies. Treatment will focus on: treating injuries resting or reducing exercise alternative exercise plans nutrition counseling keeping a healthy weight treating conditions, such as eating disorders, depression, or obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) What Can Parents Do? Parents can do a lot to help a child who exercises too much. They can: involve kids in preparing nutritious meals have fun being active together as a family be good body-image role models and not fixate on their own physical flaws not criticize other people's weight or body shape ask if their child is under a lot of pressure help kids find new ways to cope with problems If you think that your child is exercising too much, talk to your doctor. Back to Articles Related Articles Body Dysmorphic Disorder For some people, worries about appearance become extreme and upsetting, interfering with their lives, a condition called body dysmorphic disorder. Read More Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Everyone feels anxiety, fear, or worry at some time - it's normal to worry about school, your friends, your appearance, and tons of other stuff. But for teens with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), these feelings are taken to extremes. Read More Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Someone might say you're obsessed with soccer or something else that you really like, but when someone has a true obsession, it isn't any fun. Find out more about obsessive-compulsive disorder in this article for kids. Read More Your Child's Self-Esteem Strong self-esteem is a child's armor against the challenges of the world. Here's how to build healthy self-esteem in your kids. Read More Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder All kids have worries and doubts. But some have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) in which their worries compel them to behave in certain ways over and over again. OCD can get better with the right attention and care. Read More Body Dysmorphic Disorder For teens, concerns about appearances often take center stage. But if these concerns are all-consuming, cause extreme distress, and keep them from doing and thinking about other things, it may be a sign of a condition called body dysmorphic disorder. Read More Compulsive Exercise Compulsive exercise can lead to serious health problems. Lots of people don't know when they've crossed the line from healthy activity to unhealthy addiction. Read about ways to tell. Read More Sports and Exercise Safety Playing hard doesn't have to mean getting hurt. The best way to ensure a long and injury-free athletic career is to play it safe from the start. Find out how. Read More Female Athlete Triad Female athlete triad is a combination of three conditions: disordered eating, amenorrhea (loss of a girl's period), and osteoporosis (a weakening of the bones). Read More How Can I Feel Better About My Body? It's normal to wish you could change something about your body. Find out more about these feelings in this article for kids. Read More Your Child's Weight "What's the right weight for my child?" is one of the most common questions parents have. It seems like a simple one, but it's not always easy to answer. Read More Kids and Exercise Besides enjoying the health benefits of regular exercise, kids who are physically fit are better able to handle physical and emotional challenges. Read More Body Image and Self-Esteem When your body changes, so can your image of yourself. Find out how your body image affects your self-esteem and what you can do. Read More Encouraging a Healthy Body Image A healthy and positive body image means liking your body, appreciating it, and feeling grateful for its qualities and capabilities. Parents can help kids develop a healthy body image. Read More How Can I Lose Weight Safely? Lots of people are unhappy with their present weight, but aren't sure how to change it - or even if they need to. Get the facts on weight loss here. Read More Eating Disorders Eating disorders are so common in America that 1 or 2 out of every 100 students will struggle with one. Find out more. Read More A Guy's Guide to Body Image Many people think of guys as being carefree when it comes to appearance. But guys spend plenty of time in front of the mirror. And some worry just as much as girls do about their looks. Read More Eating Disorders Eating disorders are common among teens and kids, especially young women. Read about the warning signs, prevention strategies, and ways to help a child with an eating disorder. Read More Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2021 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved. Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.