This week, we are looking at compulsive exercise. It’s a topic that deserves a lot of discussion. Most parents are good at watching for eating disorders, but never think that exercise can lead to a disorder all by itself. Compulsive exercise is a mental state that can convince your children that they have no duties and no obligations more important than to exercise daily. In part one of this series we will look at what compulsive exercise is and what can cause it.
Exercise should be fun to an average kid. It should be something to do in their free time that is enjoyable. To a compulsive exerciser, however, exercise is an obligation. The child becomes obsessed with his or her workout and will spend long hours exercising daily well beyond the recommended durations of healthy activity.
In addition to the unhealthy levels of physical activity, the child or teen described may suffer some social and emotional troubles as well. The child may skip out on activities such as hanging out with friends, eating meals, going to classes and other obligations because they simply don’t matter as much as exercising for that one extra hour. If they miss a workout, they will feel an overwhelming sense of guilt over missing their workout. If they do make their workouts for the day, it may not seem like enough for them. To a complusive exerciser, exercise is viewed as a lose/lose situation.
So what causes this overwhelming urge to exercise? There’s the usual suspects in the media. Depictions of the ideal human figure in magazines, portrayals “attractive people” in movies and on television and the notion that all people of a specific height should be a specific weight are all easy targets to point a finger at. But that is not all that can contribute to these feelings in a child or teenager.
Parental pressure, peer pressure and a plain old desire to be better can all push a child or teen into compulsive exercise. Parents, in particular, need to recognize how they can influence their kids lives. Pushing their kids to do better in sports or to lose weight too fast can be dangerous to a child’s mental condition. As parents you need to know when enough is enough when encouraging your child to exercise and be healthier. You can put just as much pressure on a child as his or her peers do.
This is a very short article to describe a very big problem. Tomorrow, we will look at why compulsive exercise is so dangerous. In the mean time, it is strongly recommended that parents check out the resources available to them at Kidshealth.org for more information on compulsive exercise and many other health related issues facing kids today. And while you are there, be sure to check out this article (linked here) reviewed by Mary L. Gavin, MD. It’s a good read.
Do you have tips to help a parent of a compulsive exerciser? Did I miss something in my article? Stop by the comments section below and let us hear you. Also, feel free to follow me on Twitter @dorsino22. And be sure to check out part two of my compulsive exercise series tomorrow right here on joltleft.com.