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Running Addiction: How Exercise Can Become an Unhealthy Obsession

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A running addiction can occur when a person develops an almost compulsive obsession with the sport.

Running can be particularly addictive because of what is known as “runner’s high,” the elated feeling that results from hormones in the body getting released from physical activity and endorphins.

A new study looked at the increase in physical injuries that can result from an addiction to running.

Top of the list are stress fractures, or tiny cracks in a bone that are caused by overuse and repetitive force.

Running is one of the most popular recreational athletic activities around. In fact, about 49.5 million people are active runners or joggers in the United States, according to a 2019 report from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association.

While running can present numerous overall benefits for your body — from cardiovascular to mental health — an obsessive, unrelenting approach to running can pose severe risks.

A new study out of Australia looks at the increase in physical injury that can result from an addiction to running. As with any other addiction, a running addiction is when a person develops an almost compulsive obsession with the sport.

What new research found

For the study, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, a research team surveyed 246 recreational runners in the Netherlands who were between 19 and 77 years old.

They wanted to examine how a person’s mental outlook when it came to the sport affected their risk for injuries tied to running.

The results?

Those who reported to be “obsessively passionate” runners, in which running consumed their lives to the extent that it harmed their relationships and day-to-day lives, were found to be more likely to develop a running injury than those who were “harmoniously passionate” about the sport.

Those who were “harmoniously passionate” incorporated the activity more seamlessly into their lives. It didn’t dominate over all else.

They showed the ability to compartmentalize more, showing signs of mentally recovering from a run as well as paying attention to early indications that they could be developing an injury.

The research showed that older runners were able to separate themselves mentally from running much easier than people in the 20 to 34 age range.

Female runners were also more likely to develop an injury than male runners.

A new survey of 246 recreational runners found that more people who practiced an obsessive, addictive approach to the sport were more likely to develop injuries than their peers who showed a healthier integration of running into their lives.

As with other addictions, running addiction is when participating in the sport becomes an almost compulsory activity, overpowering other aspects of a person’s life.

Doctors suggest that runners limit the amount of running they do. It isn’t necessary to run 5 miles every day.

Add other activities to your fitness regimen, like yoga or other interval workouts. Also, be sure to fuel with a healthy diet to prevent malnourishment and hormonal imbalances.