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syz's avatar

What, exactly, is addictive about exercise?

Asked by syz (35647points) August 10th, 2010

I’ve decided that I’m done procrastinating, that I’m actually going to get back into shape. I’ve found in the past that it takes me about 6–8 weeks of pain and reluctance to reach a point where I seem to become addicted to exercise: I feel good afterward, I want to do it, I feel bad if I don’t.

If it’s endorphins, why would it take so long to develop? Is this an actual addiction or is it a mental psych-out? Can anyone find anything besides anecdotal evidence of exercise addition?

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15 Answers

Jude's avatar

Good question. I’m guessing that it’s the endorphins, but, I would love to hear what others have to say.

I am jjmah, and I am addicted to running.

rooeytoo's avatar

I still have to force myself out the door. But I am addicted to the feeling of accomplishment I have when it is all over. And I like the way I appear when I look in the mirror plus the fact that it is good for my health. So for me it is not the exercise itself that keeps me at it, it is the results it produces.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

Endorphins and great body!

nailpolishfanatic's avatar

what is addictive about exercising is getting/becoming too buff/muscular!!

rwj's avatar

“Addiction” is mediated by the release of dopamine from neurons in a few areas of the brain; two well-documented such areas are the nucleus accumbens and the ventral tegmental area. They are the key players in the brain’s reward pathway. Anything can be addictive, but since exercise provides clear rewards (both on a fundamental level – endorphins – and on a higher-order level), it makes sense that this would be a somewhat potent activator of the pathway.

Pandora's avatar

I think other than the endorphines its the rise in energy level. At least that is what it does for me. It does take longer to feel the energy boost. The energy boost gives you a sense of well being as well. The first couple of weeks you are still trying to fit it in a time schedule that works best for you. Then you are also getting over the aches and pains. Once you’ve accomplished getting that all past you, you will have these burst of energy and feel restless till you burn it out some way. At least that is how it works for me. I agree with the comments about about the clear rewards also being a plus to keep you moving and motivated.

ninahenry's avatar

Endorphins, weeeeeee! Feeling good about yourself for a reason is addictive. It’s not like being vain, you’ve worked hard on your body and mind and have a reason to, so you celebrate and keep working hard!

Cruiser's avatar

The endorphins for sure!! After swimming 40–60 lengths of the pool I am high as a kite! Very addicting so is just the plain old rush of going fast…in the water, on the running path or on a bike! Fast is good!

josie's avatar

It is not endorphins. The simple fact is, being physically fit is the natural order of things. It feels a certain way. It feels good. It looks good. Many people do not know what it feels like to feel good nor do they give a shit about the value of looking exercised ( I do not mean ripped or olympian, simply exercised). But once you know what it feels like, and once you see it in the mirror, you want to be that way. So you strive to maintain it. It is your nature. Keep it up by the way. You will never ever regret investing part of your life in fitness.

gravity's avatar

nothing… for me
at this time in my life… earlier maybe it was the “endolphins” hehe

Austinlad's avatar

I was addicted to running for many years years. It got to the point that if I skipped one day, I felt guilty the entire following day. When I did run, usually in the evenings, I felt exhausted but good that night, and exhilarated all the next day. I was so hooked on running that one night in Dallas, I broke through the proverbial wall and ran for more than two hours without a break. Another time, in Phoenix, I was running at 11 p.m. along the canal—it was in August—and I heard on my Walkman that the current temperature was 105—the high that day had been a record 114. My running started in the late ‘70s because I wanted to lose weight. Within a few years I was as lean as I had been in high school, and running was as much a part of my life as eating and sleeping. The only reason I stopped was because I needed a year of therapy after I broke my knee. I did more running in the ‘90s and for a short time between 2002 and 2004. But by then both my bad knees and bad back forced me stop. I still miss it.

christos99's avatar

I believe it’s a combination of factors. Although endorphins can contribute, i think there are mental and physical factors as well. When you start excercising on a regular basis, you feel better, sleep better, perform better in bed etc., also you can start wearing some of the old clothes stashed in your closet that you’ve been saving. Your body looks great, and you get compliments from people to keep motivating you. Just a thought…

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

It’s the thought of what I’d look and feel like if I stopped that keeps me going.

mattbrowne's avatar

Exercise cannot lead to addiction. It might become an obsession. The chemical reason are endorphins.

lostgirl12's avatar

agree with @rooeytoo.. we exercise to get the results.. and when we see it reflect in the mirror.. we want to keep doing it to maintain those results.. and then we get used to the routine and then we feel incomplete if we dont exercise.. its not addiction.. its definitely in ur mind..

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