Exercise and fitness

Key points:

  • Exercise and physical fitness have benefits for your emotional, physical and mental health
  • Different people need different amounts of exercise
  • Compulsive exercise is not related to the number of hours spent exercising, but to the mind-set behind the exercise
  • Compulsive exercise can lead to serious health issues
  • There is a link between compulsive exercising and eating disorders

Exercise and sport are important parts of a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Physical activity has benefits for your mental, physical and social health.

Current Australian guidelines recommend adults do 2.5-5 hours of moderate intensity activity or 1.25-2.5 hours of vigorous intensity activity every week; any exercise is better than no exercise at all. Of course, everyone is different, and what might be a healthy amount of exercise for one person will be an unhealthy amount for someone else.

Physical activity becomes a problem when you feel compelled to exercise even if you are not enjoying it, or despite illness or injury. When exercise becomes compulsive, it can place you at risk of a whole range of serious physical health issues such as an elevated heart rate, insomnia, fatigue, overuse injuries, or loss of your period if you are female.

While compulsive exercise isn’t an eating disorder, it often goes hand in hand with unhealthy eating patterns, social withdrawal and body image concerns. It’s also not uncommon for someone with an eating disorder to exercise excessively, which places them at an even greater risk of serious medical complications.

information for fitness professionals