Using running to escape everyday stresses may lead to exercise dependence instead of mental well-being

extreme runner

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Recreational running offers many physical and mental health benefits – but some people may develop an exercise addiction, a type of physical activity addiction that can cause health problems. Surprisingly, symptoms of exercise addiction are common even in recreational runners. a published study Boundaries in Psychology investigated whether the concept of escapism could help us understand the relationship between running, well-being, and exercise addiction.

The paper’s lead author, Dr. “Escape is an everyday phenomenon among humans, but little is known about its motivational underpinnings, how it influences experiences, and its psychological consequences,” said Frode Stenseng. .

Are you running to explore or run to escape?

“Escape is usually ‘an activity, a form of entertainment, etc. that helps you avoid or forget unpleasant or boring things.’ defined as.” In other words, many of our daily activities can be interpreted as escapism,” said Stenseng.

Escaping from reality can restore perspective or distract from problems that need solving. Escaping from reality seeking adaptive, positive experiences is called self-expansion. Meanwhile, avoiding incompatible realities that avoid negative experiences is called self-suppression. Running effectively, either as exploration or avoidance.

“These two forms of escapism stem from two different mindsets to either promote a positive mood or prevent a negative mood,” Stenseng said.

Escapist activities used to expand oneself have more positive effects but also have longer-term benefits. Self-suppression, on the contrary, tends to suppress positive as well as negative emotions and leads to avoidance.

Self-suppression associated with exercise addiction

The team recruited 227 recreational runners, half-male and half-female, with a wide variety of running practices. They were asked to complete questionnaires that explored three different aspects of escapism and exercise addiction: an escapism scale measuring preference for self-expansion or self-suppression, an exercise addiction scale, and participants’ subjective well-being.

The scientists found that there was little overlap between runners who preferred self-expansion and runners who preferred self-suppression modes of escape. Self-expansion was positively associated with well-being, while self-suppression was negatively associated with well-being. Self-suppression and self-expansion were both linked to exercise addiction, but self-suppression was much more strongly linked to it. Neither escape mode was linked to age, gender, or the amount of time a person spent running, but both did influence the relationship between health and exercise addiction. Regardless of whether a person meets the criteria for exercise addiction, their preference for self-expansion will still be linked to a more positive sense of their own well-being.

Although exercise addiction erodes the potential well-being gains from exercise, perceptions of lower well-being can be both a cause and a consequence of exercise addiction: addiction can result from lower well-being as well as promote it.

Similarly, the experience of positive self-expansion may be a psychological motive supporting exercise addiction.

“More work using longitudinal research designs is needed to further unravel the motivational dynamics and consequences in escape,” said Stenseng. “However, these findings may enlighten people on understanding their own motivations and can be used for therapeutic reasons for individuals struggling with maladaptive engagement in their activities.”

More information:
Frode Stenseng et al., Are You Running To “Get Lost”? Two Types of Real Avoidance in Recreational Running and Their Relationships to Exercise Dependence and Subjective Well-being, Boundaries in Psychology (2023). DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2022.1035196

Quotation: Running to escape daily stresses may lead to exercise addiction rather than mental health (2023, January 25), Retrieved January 25, 2023 from -entity.html

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