Sport and moderate physical activity are recommended for all ages. In Western societies, there are too many cases of sedentary people, and the best remedy for preventing illnesses linked to lack of exercise is to be active.
However, far from popular belief, more exercise doesn’t have to be better. There is a limit, and it proves difficult to discern, even though the problems it can pose to physical and mental health are serious enough that they cannot be ignored.
Below we will find out how a lifestyle characterized by excessive physical activity affects us emotionally and behaviorally.
How Does Excessive Physical Activity Affect You Psychologically?
Sport is often considered a good health habit. And that is, without overdoing it. Frequent physical activity is very positive for our health, recommended for practically all ages and has always been considered a protective factor against all kinds of diseases, especially bone and cardiovascular diseases. Sport, combined with a good diet, prevents the onset of overweight and obesity, medical conditions that increase all kinds of pathologies.
Corn Not only does this positively affect physical health, but physical activity is also associated with greater psychological well-being.. While the claim that exercise cures depression is disproportionate, exercise is known to be a protective factor against psychological issues such as depression, anxiety, or stress. In addition, it has been shown that people who exercise often have better cognitive performance, with better concentration, attention and memory.
However, all is not so positive. One thing is a regular practice and another, very different, is to suffer from a sports addiction., a condition in which one leads an overly active lifestyle, to the point that it not only conditions physical health, increasing the risk of injury, but can also negatively affect mental health. Addictions are never good, and exercise is no exception.
The psychological risks of sport
As we mentioned, physical activity has been associated with physical and mental health benefits. While there are some physical risks to regular sports, such as dehydration and injury, these physical injuries are less likely to be exerted than the multiple medical and psychological issues associated with a completely sedentary lifestyle. Inactivity can lead to weight gain, cardiovascular disease, and other medical problems associated with impaired health and poor well-being.
One of the possible causes of a sedentary or very inactive lifestyle can be a mental disorder, especially depression., a mental state whose symptoms include a lack of motivation and a loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities. There are many cases of people who fell into depression and completely gave up their sports hobbies.
However, it turns out that there is also the risk of doing too much sport, affecting psychologically in a different way compared to no physical activity but in a way almost as serious or worse. Whatever protection sport can provide to mental health, taking this physical activity to the extreme becomes a risk factor in itself, increasing the risk of suffering from depression and anxiety disorders, especially among professional athletes.
There are many professional examples of how an overly active lifestyle affects us psychologically. While it might not be quite fair to use them as a warning to non-professionals, they show very well what happens when sport has become a constant in a person’s life.
The most famous and recent example that comes to mind is the case of Simone Biles. There is no doubt that this Olympic gymnast is in good shape, but because she was put under a lot of pressure and very hard training, she was forced to put her sanity before her professional career, which helped others. athletes. take a break too. Additionally, Biles’ case, along with others like Naomi Osaka, has served to destigmatize mental health issues in the world of sport.
A much older case was that of Michael Phelps. The Olympic swimmer had publicized his depression issues associated with an extremely strict athletic career in virtually every aspect of his life. Phelps shared his psychological distress several years after competitions by taking advantage of the fact that he was free from the neutrality imposed on the Olympics with his participants.
Others were not so lucky, such as German footballer Robert Enke, who despite a successful life in the sports world ended his life by throwing himself on the rails of a train in 2009. Jeret Peterson, Olympic freestyle ski athlete, committed suicide. just one year after winning the silver medal at the Vancouver Winter Games (2010). Dave Mirra, the best freestyle BMX athlete in the history of freestyle BMX, died in 2016 suffering from depression linked to chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy
We cannot talk about the risks of having an overly active lifestyle without mentioning chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Also called boxing dementia, it is a neurological condition in which, due to multiple impacts on the head, the brain is damaged and all kinds of emotional and cognitive symptoms are present:
- Thinking problems.
- Impulsive behavior and drug addiction.
- Emotional instability: depression, anger, sudden mood swings.
- Short term memory loss
- Problem planning.
- Emotional instability.
- Suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
- Generalized apathy: lack of expressiveness and emotional interest.
- Awkwardness, slowness, stiffness, coordination problems …
To be fair, this disease doesn’t have to be caused by an overly active lifestyle. Some people who have been abused or who have had a car accident suffer from this problem, but it is particularly common in those who practice contact sports, such as martial arts or football. If these sports are played very regularly and the appropriate measures are not taken to prevent brain damage, there is the possibility of suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy..
One risk associated with excessive physical activity that receives little attention is exercise addiction, underestimated by many and seen as a virtue by many others. One thinks that this particular dependence affects more or less 3% of the world population and that it poses psychological problems for physically healthy individuals. Because people who have it are barely able to stop exercising, they run the risk of suffering from physical problems over time, such as wear and tear on ligaments, fractures, or sprains.
Scientific research has shown that exercise addiction, like any other compulsive behavior, is fueled by mood-enhancing effects. These effects range from managing a little anxiety to reducing the effects of anger, depression and boredom.
On the physical level, sport has a double effect: on the one hand it improves muscle strength and aerobic condition and on the other hand the physical appearance. Psychologically, it keeps the mood high and increases self-esteem not only to look better, but also because the person feels proud to have remained constant and not failed along the way to achieve a healthy diet. constant and disciplined exercise.
Then there is the social factor. In the Western world, the canon of male and female beauty favors people who make exercise versus those who don’t. While men should be muscular and women slim, in both sexes, after exercising regularly for a season and noticing the results, all kinds of compliments are received. Otherwise, it makes you fat, no compliments would be received, and most likely criticism would be received, some very cruel. camouflaged under health concerns.
And this is precisely why, when we see a person with an exercise addiction, far from wondering if there is a problem, we consider them as a benchmark of effort, perseverance and health. Exercise junkies, far from being criticized for their social environment or touching on the need for rest, are praised for their dedication or appearance. friends, family, coaches, teammates and even social media. This validation and attention only strengthens the efforts of the addict.
People addicted to exercise may be addicted to a second or even a third addiction such as tobacco, alcohol, drugs, work, food or sex. These can also include addiction to steroids and other substances to build muscle mass. Either way, the comorbidity with other addictions increases the severity of the sport addiction.
Some studies have linked eating disorders, caffeine addiction, and shopping to exercise addiction. Addictive caffeine consumption is associated with a desire to increase exercise, take it in pill form, or drink large amounts of coffee or tea, a practice that is not uncommon among athletes. Because caffeine is a substance that generates tolerance and dependence, the person would need more and more quantities to notice its potentiating effects.
As for eating disorders, one explanation would be the obsession with achieving desired sporting goals, both related to strength and to the body. Both men and women can fall under the dynamic of obsessing over what they eat, rejecting any food that comes out of their diet and seems to be able to prevent them from achieving their athletic goals. Vigor, especially in men, is believed to be the link between exercise addiction associated with an eating disorder.
How do you know if a person is addicted to exercise?
Determining if you are addicted to exercise or have an overly active lifestyle is the job of sports physicians and psychologists. From the outside, it is difficult to know if someone is doing well with the sport as it will depend on many factors including whether you feel good doing it, whether you have injuries from excessive exercise, or whether you have any injuries. ‘there is a kind of mental disorder that potentiates it. How? ‘Or’ What general signs that a person may be addicted to exercise we have the following:
- Exercise intensely daily and at excessive levels
- Exercising despite an injury or illness
- Need more and more exercise to be able to feel good about yourself
- If the desired amount of exercise is not performed, the affected person will feel frustrated and in a very bad mood.
- The mood of the affected person depends almost exclusively on the amount of exercise they do each day.
- Don’t take days or weeks of physical rest for fear of losing your progress
- Continue with a vigorous exercise plan despite the negative consequences on social relationships and work and school obligations.
Although little known, there is a growing awareness of sports addiction and how it affects us psychologically for an overly active lifestyle. As a result, it has been possible to develop diagnostic and screening tools such as the Exercise Addiction Inventory Short Form, a six-question questionnaire that determines whether a person is at risk for developing exercise addiction.
While exercise is usually recommended, its abuse can lead to various psychological problems caused directly or indirectly by the exercise. Whether it is the pressure of the exercise itself or the impact on the skull, especially in professional athletes, various psychological problems such as depression, anxiety or stress can occur, as well as mood swings and suicidal thoughts..
In some cases, leading an overly active life eventually evolves into a sport addiction which can be combined with other addictions, both substance and behavior, and eating disorders. The abusive practice of sport, far from being socially condemned, can be encouraged, ensuring that the person addicted to physical activity does not stop but on the contrary, continues to exercise more and more intensely in order to receive more. of social recognition, a powerful reinforcement that can make the addiction even stronger.
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