Exercise addiction research paper


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But can exercise help curb addictions? Some research shows that exercise may stimulate reward centers in the brain, helping to ease cravings for drugs or other substances. But according to an eye-opening new study of cocaine-addicted mice, dedicated exercise may in some cases make it even harder to break an addiction. The study, conducted by researchers at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, began by dividing male mice into those that had or did not have running wheels in their cages.

All of the mice were injected with a chemical that marks newly created brain cells. The animals then sat in their cages or ran at will for 30 days. Afterward, the mice were placed in small multiroom chambers in the lab and introduced to liquid cocaine. They liked it.

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If a rodent returns to and stubbornly plants itself in a particular place where it has received a drug or other pleasurable experience, then the researchers conclude that the animal has become habituated. It badly wants to repeat the experience that it associates with that place. All of the mice displayed a decided place preference for the spot within their chamber where they received cocaine. They had learned to associate that location with the pleasures of the drug. All of the mice had, essentially, become addicts. Some of the sedentary animals were then given running wheels and allowed to start exercising.

Meanwhile, those mice that had always had wheels continued to use them. The researchers noted two distinct patterns among the addicted exercisers. The DSM-5 suggested other disorders such as Internet addiction and sex addiction may be classed as future behavioral addictions, but only if reliable empirical research confirms the existence of such conditions Reilly and Smith The belief that addiction now covers a variety of behaviors such as exercise has led to many theories and contributing factors of addiction. One of the underlying contributing factors in the acquisition, development, and maintenance of addiction may be personality and specific traits Gossop and Eysenck including narcissism Akehurst and Thatcher ; Miller and Mesagno ; Spano There is growing evidence that narcissism may be associated with exercise addiction symptoms Miller and Mesagno ; Spano , although findings from recent literature are inconclusive.

A narcissistic personality has been described as a pattern of characteristics that are present in an obsessive behavior whereby individuals become very self-centered as they crave opportunities for self-enhancement and excel when being evaluated by others Wallace and Baumeister Miller and Mesagno stressed that self-worth is a significant motivating factor among exercisers which can become increasingly maladaptive if dwelled upon excessively. Furthermore, the same authors argued that self-worth becomes noticeably apparent in the form of narcissism.

The relationship between narcissism and exercise participation has demonstrated that those exhibiting higher levels of narcissism engage in physical exercise more frequently than those with lower levels of narcissism Akehurst and Thatcher ; Miller and Mesagno ; Spano These findings support self-worth theory and explain why narcissists may engage excessively in exercise Collins and Stukas ; Miller Paulhus argued that these two personality dimensions correspond to an emergent personality type that is equivalent to a narcissistic personality.

Therefore, in the context of the Big Five, the narcissist can be broadly characterized as a disagreeable extravert. There is considerable evidence to support this two-factor characterization of narcissism with scores on the Narcissistic Personality Inventory NPI Ames et al.

However, a question that arises with this two-factor combination is related to the unknown behavioral tendencies and characteristics that an individual who exhibits such levels of agreeableness and extraversion would show. In terms of extraversion, Lucas et al. With regard to individuals scoring low on agreeableness, these individuals show greater disdain for others and aggressive anger, especially when frustrated Graziano et al. Relationships between personality traits and exercise addiction have emerged in recent literature Bircher et al.

Is exercise addiction in fitness centers a socially accepted behavior? - ScienceDirect

Gulker et al. Despite high extraversion and low agreeableness merging as a two-factor combination for narcissism, researchers have investigated the relationship between extraversion and agreeableness as separate traits and exercise Costa and Oliva ; Hausenblas and Giacobbi ; Mathers and Walker A few studies have indicated that high extraversion and low agreeableness have an association with exercise Costa and Oliva ; Hausenblas and Giacobbi ; Mathers and Walker Mathers and Walker reported that non-exercisers were significantly less extraverted compared to the exercisers.

However, there was no significant difference in extraversion scores between addicted and non-addicted exercisers. More recently, Costa and Oliva reported that extraversion was positively associated with tolerance the need to increase duration, frequency, and intensity in order to obtain the desired affects , time, and intended effects—symptoms that are typical among those addicted to exercise. Consequently, the relationship between extraversion and exercise addiction is unclear. A negative relationship has been found between agreeableness and exercise addiction Costa and Oliva , further supporting results from previous research reporting that non-exercise-addicted individuals score higher on agreeableness scales compared to exercise-addicted individuals Hausenblas and Giacobbi Similar to extraversion, there are mixed findings in relation to how neuroticism affects exercise-related behaviors.

Some research has found neuroticism to be inversely associated to exercise behaviors Courneya and Hellsten ; Yeung and Hemsley , suggesting that neurotics tend to avoid situations that entail sport and exercise. However, other studies Costa and Oliva ; Hausenblas and Giacobbi have reported that neuroticism is a key predictor of exercise addiction. Hausenblas and Giacobbi also suggested that neurotic individuals may tend to exercise in an excessive manner in order to reduce their stress levels and negative emotions as a form of maladaptive coping strategy.

This model suggests the existence of basic components that are common to all addictions. Griffiths provided an explanation as to what an addiction is by arguing that all addictions share a high degree of certain commonalities featuring six key components i. In cases where individuals fail to meet all six criteria, Griffiths argues that they cannot be operationally defined as having an addiction.

Griffiths argues that these components are part of a biopsychosocial process and apply to all addictions whether they involve the ingestion of a drug or not. Allegre et al. All of these factors described the negative aspects of excessive exercise. However, mood modification is not necessarily negative. An addiction to exercise could increase positive feelings in that an individual may feel a sense of exhilaration or satisfaction when exercising.

Equally, it can be seen as a way of decreasing negative feelings. In this case, exercise would be seen as a means to cope with daily life stressors, which can be understood within the concept of positive addictions Glasser The relationship between the mood modification and withdrawal components in exercise addiction has been investigated by researchers.

Mondin et al. This has provided support for Griffiths components model in the area of mood modification and withdrawal. Although individuals report positive feelings after engaging in physical exercise, it starts to have a knock-on effect with regard to the withdrawal component as individuals start to crave the arousal that they experience when participating in exercise.

When examining gender differences among exercise addicts, there is no clear direction as to whether males or females are more prone to becoming addicted to exercise Kovacsik et al. In one study, women reported more often than men that they craved exercise and experienced feelings of nervousness and anxiety when they are unable to exercise Zmijewski and Howard Another study reported that exercising prevents the emergence of negative feelings Zmijewski and Howard Reasons behind why women exercise excessively may be related to how they perceive their body image and potential appearance issues Davis et al.

Emmons reported that narcissists had a greater motivation to attain a perfect body and had a higher awareness of their appearance. A regression analysis by Davis et al. It is not solely females that these results apply to, because over time, males have increasingly been investigated when it comes to body image and attractiveness Foster et al. For some males, the attraction to achieve the perfect body has been taken to the extremes, often using exercise to obtain this desire. Multiple studies have unsurprisingly found a high prevalence of exercise addiction in male bodybuilders Foster et al.

Taken together, gender-based studies indicate that males and females who partake in extreme bouts of physical exercise are more likely to display narcissistic tendencies in order to enhance their appearance.

Given the aims of the present study, the following hypotheses are proposed: i exercise addiction will be positively correlated with narcissism; ii extraversion and agreeableness will each uniquely contribute as predictors of exercise addiction; and iii there will be no significant gender differences in relation to the first two hypotheses. A total of participants 74 females and 40 males were recruited in the present study. Of this sample, were regular exercisers i. Among the regular exercisers, they exercised on average 3. The Exercise Addiction Inventory EAI is a six-item psychometric test designed to assess exercise addiction based on a modified version of the components of behavioral addiction Griffiths Participants were instructed to rate each of the six statements in relation to the extent each item reflected their current exercise beliefs.

The statements were coded so that a higher score reflected a higher degree of exercise addiction behavior. In terms of reliability, the EAI has been found to exhibit adequate internal consistency and satisfactory test-retest reliability Griffiths et al. Participants are presented with 16 pairs of statements and are requested to select one option from each pair that they think comes closest to describing their feelings about themselves. Ames et al. In the same study Ames et al. The Ten-Item Personality Inventory TIPI is a ten-item measure of the Big Five personality dimensions extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability, and openness to experience.

Each dimension of the Big Five was represented by two items, one which provided a positive aspect of the dimension and the other which provided a negative aspect. Gosling et al. Participants were recruited in two ways. The most prominent was via web-based media, direct contact, and e-mails to participants who were asked if they would like to take part in the online survey. The other recruitment method involved using a university research credit scheme where participants would sign up for the study online and select themselves into the sample and be given research credits in return upon completion for their participation.

All participants had to provide an informed consent prior to starting the survey and informed that the data collected were anonymous and confidential. Statistical analysis comprised i general descriptive statistical analyses, ii various correlational analyses among the four variables and the sociodemographic questions on the engagement and intensity of exercise, and a iii stepwise regression analysis with scores on the EAI as the outcome variable i.

The majority of participants reported being a regular exerciser Based on the findings from the correlational analyses, gender, exercise engagement, exercise intensity, extraversion, agreeableness, and narcissism were modeled into a non-hierarchical stepwise multiple regression analysis to predict exercise addiction.

The final model was reached after three steps, and out of the five predictors, only three i. Stepwise multiple linear regression of the relationship between exercise addiction and key-related predictors. Outcome: exercise addiction.

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When examining the predicted change in the outcome variable i. Exercise engagement was associated with a partial regression coefficient of 1. For extraversion, every additional point in this variable predicts an increase of 0. The first sought to examine the role of key personality traits i. The second was to investigate any gender differences among regular exercisers. Based purely on exercise addiction scores, results demonstrated very few participants were at risk of exercise addiction.

Terry et al. This low prevalence rate of exercise addiction supports previous studies using the EAI e. In relation to the first research question examining narcissism, a statistically significant relationship was observed between narcissism and exercise addiction. Participants displaying high levels of narcissism were more likely to show exercise addiction symptoms. Although previous research examining narcissism and exercise addiction is minimal, Spano reported there was an association between narcissism and greater involvement in physical activity.

This finding corroborates previous research suggesting that it is not uncommon for narcissists to excessively exercise in order to increase their sense of self-worth and appearance Miller and Mesagno ; Wallace and Baumeister Consequently, the need to maintain high feelings of self-worth could manifest into an addiction to exercising Miller and Mesagno When the relationship between narcissism and exercise addiction was re-examined, after separating participants by their gender and examining the second research question, the relationship between narcissism and exercise addiction was found in males only.

This finding lends support to Brown and Carroll who suggested that groups of males who exercise excessively are more likely to be narcissistic. These studies indicate high levels of narcissism and exercise addiction symptoms may typically co-exist in males. Results suggest that the physical and mental rewards associated with exercise i. Furthermore, the present correlational findings indicated that there was no significant relationship between agreeableness and exercise addiction; therefore, the second hypothesis was not supported i.

Results from the present study do not fall in line with the findings of previous studies which have found agreeableness to be a predictor of exercise addiction symptoms Costa and Oliva ; Hausenblas and Giacobbi Despite the paucity of research concerning agreeableness, research suggests that individuals low in agreeableness tend to be unfriendly and competitive, resulting in excessive exercise in order to satisfy their competitive nature Hausenblas and Giacobbi Based on the findings presented here, it appears further research is necessary in order to confirm whether agreeableness is one of the predictors of exercise addiction.

Despite the lack of effect that agreeableness had on exercise addiction, high scores reported on the narcissism and extraversion scales resulted in a significant negative correlation of agreeableness, remaining consistent among males and females. Results from this and previous studies demonstrate that extraversion appears to be an extremely relevant individual difference in exercise addiction.

For both males and females, analysis indicated that high extraversion scores correlated significantly with high exercise addiction scores. This finding confirms previous research showing that individuals reporting low exercise engagement may be less extraverted and more agreeable when compared to individuals who exercise regularly Hausenblas and Giacobbi In light of the second hypothesis i.

Despite one demographic variable i. Based upon these observations, extraversion as a predictor of exercise addiction remains consistent with previous findings e. In summary, results from the present study are in line with the findings of Costa and Oliva in that extraversion appears to be a relevant personality trait associated with exercise addiction. The association of a narcissistic personality type displaying exercise addiction symptoms supports recent literature Miller and Mesagno while agreeableness appears not to be a personality trait that has a significant impact on exercise addiction behaviors in the present study.

This is in stark contrast to the previous research Costa and Oliva ; Hausenblas and Giacobbi who reported a negative association between high levels of agreeableness and low levels of exercise addiction. The present study is not without potential limitations. First, the sample size and population should be taken into account in terms of limited generalizability to the wider population as a large proportion of the sample comprised university students. Second, the use of the TIPI may have weakened the correlations between the personality variables, as shorter scales tend to be less reliable Gosling et al.


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For future studies examining personality in more detail, it is suggested that other more comprehensive personality assessment tools such as the item Big Five inventory John and Srivastava are used or the item NEO Five-Factor Inventory Costa and McCrae Third, the NPI was susceptible to response bias due to the nature of what it assesses. Since narcissism is not a particularly desirable quality to have, highly narcissistic participants may have downplayed their narcissistic tendencies in the self-report method of response.

This could lead to reduced accuracy in the relationships between the variables. Self-report measures are also known to have other well-known biases such as memory recall biases.

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Finally, the demographic variables assessing exercise engagement and intensity were assessed by non-standardized psychometric tools. For that reason, the strength of the association between the NPI responses and the other variables should be interpreted with caution. The present study found that individuals reporting high exercise addiction scores are in general more extraverted and narcissistic compared to those with low exercise addiction scores.

For future studies examining the role of personality on exercise addiction, it is suggested that the use of standardized psychometric tools should be employed when investigating the association between the variables, as an alternative to self-devised questions. Furthermore, the use of a larger and more diverse and generalized sample should be used. The findings from the present study indicate the potential to identify those susceptible to exercise addiction through the identification of co-existing narcissistic and extraverted traits in exercisers.

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Download PDF. Open Access. First Online: 17 May Method Participants A total of participants 74 females and 40 males were recruited in the present study. Measures Sociodemographic Factors and Exercise Engagement The sample provided data related to key demographic features and patterns of exercise behavior. More specifically, all participants were asked questions about their gender, age, and several questions relating to their engagement and intensity in exercise and sport see Table 1.

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The Exercise Addiction Inventory Terry et al. The Narcissistic Personality Inventory Ames et al. Ten-Item Personality Inventory Gosling et al. Correlational Analyses Pearson correlation coefficients r were computed to investigate the relationships between the variables i. Several statistically significant correlation coefficients were found among exercise, narcissism, and personality traits from the TIPI i. Variable 1 2 3 4 5 6 Narcissism 1 1 0. Pearson correlation coefficients were also computed separately for female Table 3 and male Table 4 participants.

Correlation between narcissism and agreeableness in males and females proved similar. These scores indicated that for both males and females, the higher they scored on the exercise addiction scale, the more likely they were to exhibit high levels of extraversion. Table 5 shows the unstandardized and standardized regression coefficients of the three predictors alongside their correlation coefficients with exercise addiction and their squared semi-partial correlations. Overall, exercise engagement provided the strongest weight in the model followed by extraversion then exercise intensity.

As indexed by the semi-partial correlations, the unique variance of each variable predictor is explained. Exercise engagement, extraversion, and exercise intensity accounted for approximately From the obtained standardized beta coefficients in the present model, exercise engagement, extraversion, and exercise intensity each contributed Table 5 Stepwise multiple linear regression of the relationship between exercise addiction and key-related predictors. Conflict of Interest The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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