Exercising to excess bad for health

A psychological study of gym-goers has found 23 per cent of respondents
exercised at excessive levels.

Seventy-five per cent of 'excessive exercisers' were motivated to hit the
gym to relieve stress and anxiety, according to the Victoria University
study.

To be defined as an 'excessive exerciser' participants had to score above
average on an exercise dependence questionnaire and exercise more
than six hours per week.

The study excluded people with clinical eating disorders and professional
or elite athletes.

"While exercise is vital to our health and well-being, when people become
addicted to and reliant on exercise, it can be damaging to both their
physical and psychological health," said study co-author, Jane Fletcher.

Ms Fletcher, a psychologist, said people who exercise excessively do so
even when they are injured, tired or sick.

"Sometimes they will even push themselves harder, because it is a
challenge to get through it," Ms Fletcher said.

"They regularly turn down invitations with friends and family to go to the
gym. Exercise makes them feel really good and if they don't do it, they can
feel anxious and withdrawn. This can negatively affect their social life and
career."

Study co-author from Victoria University, Andrew Jago, said people who
exercised excessively tended to be more extroverted than non-excessive
exercisers.

"These people love being the centre of attention and are often the life of
the party. They also tend to display higher levels of drive and
competitiveness," Mr Jago said.

"Exercising is essential for a healthy lifestyle, but you need to find a
balance. If you are concerned, visit your local GP or psychologist for
advice."

The study, 'Reasons for exercise in an Australian gym population,' was
undertaken with 213 participants in Melbourne.

Results from the study will be presented at the 42nd Australian
Psychological Society national conference, 'Psychology Making an
Impact,' at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre from 25 to 29
September.


Ms Fletcher and Mr Jago are available for interview. For an interview
please contact Elaine Grant on 0412 683 068.