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Exercise Addiction Statistics

Exercise addiction can impact anyone, regardless of age, gender, or physical condition. It is crucial to recognize when exercise dependence becomes harmful or hazardous. Ongoing research is providing a deeper comprehension of this problem.

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Statistics on Addiction to Exercise

Exercise addiction affects people of all ages, genders, conditions, backgrounds, and activity levels. However, some people are more at risk than others.

By understanding how exercise dependence and addiction affect different people, we can better spot when healthy amounts of exercise become unhealthy or even dangerous. Although research on exercise addiction is ongoing, early data tells a deeper story.

How Common Is Exercise Addiction?

Like many behavioral addictions, it’s hard to know the exact amount of Americans who meet the criteria for exercise addiction. According to the University of Southern California, approximately 3% of people who exercise regularly are addicted.

Studies have shown that professional and college athletes are more at risk for exercise addiction, with incidences of high-risk exercise addiction ranging between 7% and 42% in the athletic population. Unfortunately, the line between at-risk exercise and exercise addiction is thin.

While exercise addiction doesn’t have its official diagnosis in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition), it’s commonly diagnosed and treated by psychiatry professionals.

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Exercise Addiction Statistics by Gender

Generally, men are often encouraged to exercise more than women, especially in weight lifting and “bulking up.”

Conversely, women are often encouraged to engage more in aerobic and cardio exercises for weight loss or “slimming down.”

While these gender roles are constantly in flux, these traditions have certainly affected how exercise addiction affects each gender. Unfortunately, there are few recent studies about exercise addiction by gender.

However, most studies that included gender as a component of the study reported men having a higher prevalence of exercise addiction than women. Such prevalence could be explained by higher rates of men in sports and exercise as a hobby.

Exercise Addiction Statistics by Race

Although studies on exercise addiction are in short supply, there is some data on rates of exercise addiction by race.

According to a recent international study, rates of indicated exercise addiction included:

  • 92.8% were White
  • 3.30% were Asian
  • 1.00% were Hispanic or Latino
  • .40% were Black or African American

Exercise Addiction Statistics by Age Group

Exercise addiction can affect anyone of any age. While early research has shown that the condition tends to affect young adults and adolescents the most, more recent studies have shown that many older individuals can experience exercise dependence.

According to a study from 2013 with 409 men and women, exercise dependence was found among the following age groups:

  • 7.33% of men and women aged 18–12
  • 15.41% of men and women aged 25–44
  • 16.62% of men and women aged 45–64
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Exercise Addiction Statistics by Sport

Studies have shown that athletes are at significantly higher risk of exercise addiction. Because athletes tend to be younger, the condition was thought to affect individuals 15 to 30 mainly.

Although many athletes continue their careers into their late thirties and even forties, the highest-risk age group remains 15–19 years old.

There are no American studies published on this topic. Still, preliminary research from the University of Southern Denmark has indicated how certain sports have different risks of exercise addiction among elite athletes.

  • 14.2% for endurance athletes
  • 10.4% for ball game players
  • 8.2% for gym attendees
  • 6.4% for strength disciplines (bodybuilder)

Exercise Addiction Statistics by Comorbidity

Exercise addiction is often seen with other mental conditions, especially anxiety, depression, body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), and eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia. People with body image issues are especially susceptible to exercise dependence and addiction.

According to research from the Fielding Graduate University, the co-occurring disorders were found among individuals with exercise addiction:

  • 48% of exercise addicts suffer from eating disorders
  • 56.3% of exercise addicts suffer from depressive disorders
  • 46.9% of exercise addicts suffer from personality disorders
  • 31.3% of exercise addicts suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorders

Studies have also indicated that exercise addiction has high rates of comorbidity with substance use disorders, anxiety disorders, ADHD, bipolar disorders, and trauma disorders.

Exercise Addiction and Eating Disorders

According to research, the prevalence of exercise dependence ranges from 16.7 to 85.3% in adolescents with eating disorders and 31.9 to 80.0% in adults with eating disorders.

The strong relationship between eating disorders and exercise addiction makes it clear that many people with eating disorders or body image issues are at high risk of exercise dependence.

Many people with eating disorders exercise compulsively to lose weight, gain muscle, or meet a certain body goal.

Like extreme behaviors like restriction or binge eating, individuals may fall into excessive exercise patterns to the point of negative consequences.

Such addictive exercise behaviors can easily worsen health conditions or cause injury due to health issues common in eating disorders, such as osteoporosis, anemia, and malnutrition.

As people with eating disorders begin to abuse regular exercise, they can easily become addicted to releasing dopamine and endorphins, resulting in unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.

Treatment and Recovery from Exercise Addiction

Exercise addiction is very treatable through therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy. While inpatient rehab is rarely necessary, individuals with severe comorbidities or substance abuse issues may benefit from a residential stay.

In therapy, exercise addicts will learn how to identify the behaviors, thoughts, and self-beliefs that lead to addictive behaviors around exercise. Whether through one-on-one or group sessions, patients learn how to address these unhealthy thoughts and behaviors, replacing them with more productive ones.

Full recovery from exercise addiction is completely possible with the right treatment and support. Therapy usually includes strategies to help with lingering symptoms of exercise addiction or moments where the patient may be tempted to relapse.

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Getting Help for Exercise Addiction

Many options are available if you or a loved one is living with exercise addiction and are ready to get help. You can start by talking to your doctor about your symptoms related to physical activity.

If you don’t have a doctor or don’t know where to start, you can try SAMHSA’s online treatment locator or call 1-877-726-4727 (HELP) to find eating disorder treatment providers in your area.

FAQ's About Exercise Addiction Statistics

Is exercise addiction a real problem?

Yes. For exercise addicts, the toll excessive exercise takes on a person’s well-being can be life-threatening if not treated. Many addicts may experience extreme weight loss, joint inflammation, dehydration, stress fractures and pressure sores, weakened immune systems, and sleep issues.

Addicts can also suffer from mental health effects like social isolation, depression and anxiety, restricting or overeating foods, basing their self-worth on their appearance, and thoughts of self-harm and suicide.

Who is most at risk for exercise addiction?

The people most at risk for exercise addiction include:

  • Co-occurring mental illnesses such as eating disorders (anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa), body dysmorphic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), ADHD, and personality traits like perfectionism, narcissism, and neuroticism
  • Past addiction or substance abuse issues
  • Professional or college athletes, especially in sports with pressure to look a certain way, like ballet, gymnastics, figure skating, or running
  • History of addiction within the family
  • Body image issues or low self-esteem

Who is most at risk for exercise addiction?

The people most at risk for exercise addiction include:

  • Co-occurring mental illnesses such as eating disorders (anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa), body dysmorphic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), ADHD, and personality traits like perfectionism, narcissism, and neuroticism
  • Past addiction or substance abuse issues
  • Professional or college athletes, especially in sports with pressure to look a certain way, like ballet, gymnastics, figure skating, or running
  • History of addiction within the family
  • Body image issues or low self-esteem

Why is exercise addiction more common in people with anxiety?

Exercise is often suggested as a form of treatment for anxiety disorders. In most cases, physical activity can tremendously help with anxiety symptoms thanks to the release of feel-good chemicals like dopamine and endorphins.

Unfortunately, if someone is already at risk for developing exercise addiction, turning to regular exercise for relief can increase their chances of developing exercise dependence and addiction.

If you have risk factors for exercise disorder, speak with your doctor about those concerns to decide how to proceed safely.

What is the percentage of Americans who exercise excessively?

According to current studies, it’s believed that around 3% or around 10 million Americans have exercise dependence.

What are some solutions to reduce the risk of exercise addiction?

Unfortunately, many risk factors of exercise addiction are things out of our control. However, we can improve the awareness of this condition.

Considering the current public health crisis related to obesity, physical activity and exercise are generally considered very positive hobbies.

Many people are unaware that it’s possible to become addicted to something that seems so healthy. By increasing awareness, people can also know their risk factors for developing exercise addiction.

Kent S. Hoffman, D.O. is a founder of Addiction HelpReviewed by:Kent S. Hoffman, D.O.

Chief Medical Officer & Co-Founder

  • Fact-Checked
  • Editor

Kent S. Hoffman, D.O. has been an expert in addiction medicine for more than 15 years. In addition to managing a successful family medical practice, Dr. Hoffman is board certified in addiction medicine by the American Osteopathic Academy of Addiction Medicine (AOAAM). Dr. Hoffman has successfully treated hundreds of patients battling addiction. Dr. Hoffman is the Co-Founder and Chief Medical Officer of AddictionHelp.com and ensures the website’s medical content and messaging quality.

Jessica Miller is the Content Manager of Addiction HelpWritten by:

Editorial Director

Jessica Miller is the Editorial Director of Addiction Help. Jessica graduated from the University of South Florida (USF) with an English degree and combines her writing expertise and passion for helping others to deliver reliable information to those impacted by addiction. Informed by her personal journey to recovery and support of loved ones in sobriety, Jessica's empathetic and authentic approach resonates deeply with the Addiction Help community.

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