I am addicted to aerobic exercise. I get high off my 30 minute morning run. My husband laughs at the energy levels I return home with.
The high makes me more productive the rest of the day. I accomplish many things on days that start with a run.
The days that don’t start with aerobic exercise never seem to get off their feet. I’m in a relative slump the whole day. I don’t accomplish many things, and if I do, it feels like pulling teeth to get them done.
When I don’t get aerobic exercise for several days in a row, it feels like my whole world falls apart.
The actual definition of addiction according to The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) is rather complicated. ASAM updated the definition back in 2011 to reflect the neuroscience findings that addiction is a chronic disease of the brain. One key sentence is that addiction is “reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.”
I am not hurting myself or others in order to exercise. So maybe I am not actually addicted to exercise since my behavior is not pathological. I guess I’m just dependent.
It’s not surprising that I would be dependent on the brain fireworks that happen during exercise. Here’s a cute little article about What Happens to Our Brains During Exercise (and Why it Makes Us Happier).
The short version is that 20 minutes of exercise releases chemicals similar to when taking morphine, heroin, or nicotine. But exercise is good for us. Additionally, the article details how days with exercise increase productivity and happiness in comparison to days without. The article recommends 20 minutes of daily exercise, like a walk, for optimal benefit. The article also has tips how to build a daily habit of exercise.
Hmm, that sounds a lot like my experience. I’m glad I’m not crazy.
One problem I have is that I can’t run every day. My knees can’t handle the impact. That is what originally got me into triathlons. When I rotated through swimming, biking, and running, I found I could get aerobic exercise 6 days a week while not overstressing any particular body part.
I’ve been out of the tri world for a few years now. I’m still in the process of rebuilding myself. Maybe it’s time to order some new swim goggles that don’t leak, put my bike back on my trainer, and start training for a triathlon. That will get me my daily exercise fix.
Are you addicted to the good stuff? How do you fit exercise into your day? Share in the comments below.
*Photo Credit: Gibson Claire McGuire Regester (Flickr Creative Commons)