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Eating disorders can be scary, whether they are characterized by a lack of proper nutrition or by overeating. One type that may be the most commonly overlooked, however, is compulsive exercising. Also known as obligatory exercise or anorexia athletica, this disorder is characterized by an individual not choosing to exercise, but actually feeling compelled to, otherwise they may experience bouts of guilt, anxiety, or depression. The person begins to prioritize exercise over everything else within their life, including friends, family, school, and careers, and may choose to work out regardless of illness or injury. In general, exercise is regarded as a healthy behavior. What many people may not realize, however, is that it can be taken too far, and serious health consequences may result. As with any eating disorder, it may be best to seek professional help from a facility like Miller Counseling Services.
Compulsive exercise disorder is not always recognized as its own disorder, but rather as a symptom of other disorders. This is due to compulsive exercise often occurring along with bulimia, anorexia, or OCD. There are cases, however, of the disorder existing on its own. Compulsive exercise can occur in anyone, but tends to be more common in girls between the ages of 12 and 19, and the risk generally increases for athletes. If left untreated, the disorder can lead to other eating disorders and certain health risks.
It is recommended that a person burns about 2,000 to 3,500 calories a week for good cardiovascular health. This equals to about 30 to 45 minutes of exercise a day for five to six days a week. Beyond 3,500 calories, however, you begin to see a decrease in the health benefits and an increase in your risk for injury. Giving your body a day or two of rest between workouts is important to allow for recuperation. In excess, exercise can begin to cause stress on tendons, joints, ligaments, and bones, resulting in possible tearing or fractures that can worsen over time. Too much exercise can also have the opposite of the desired effect, causing muscle to break down as the body fights to find more energy. Excessive exercise can also cause stress on the heart, and can disrupt hormone production. In women, this can lead to the cessation of the menstrual cycle (amenorrhea), an increased risk of bone degeneration (osteoporosis), and reproductive disorders. Receiving therapy, such as from a facility like Miller Counseling Services, may be helpful in treating compulsive exercise behaviors and in assisting to prevent many of the associated risks.