Did you know that it’s possible to be addicted to exercise? In fact, exercise dependence is widely recognised as a form of compulsive behavioural addiction – a psychological state that is damaging to physical, mental and social health.

The basic principle of establishing whether or not you’re addicted to exercise (or to what extent) is to answer a series of questions that pumps out an overall score of your psychological state. Google: exercise dependence and HAD test.

Let me let you in on a secret: I’m not actually sure where I am personally on this scale, but I’m pretty sure that I have some form of exercise dependence. I find that I become pretty restless if I haven’t had a hard weights or cardiovascular session in 48 hours, which means that in order to stay ‘non-fidgety’ I will prioritise exercise most days. There isn’t anything necessarily wrong with that and, in fact, exercise is healthy and recommended by the government. But when exercise becomes too much of a priority, it can become unhealthy.

For example, occasionally my frequency of exercise might be too high and I’ll be training when I haven’t fully recovered from a previous session. Or there might be occasions when I attempt to exercise as normal even though I’m injured, which is just stupid. There is definitely a fine line between admirably strong, healthy internal motivation for exercise (rather than laziness) and the compulsive elements of dependence on exercise that aren’t so great.

This sounds pretty full-on! What the heck has this got to do with faith?


The people we’re becoming – our internal worlds

The things that we are dependent on have the biggest impact on shaping our internal worlds and the people we’re becoming. In 1 Timothy 4:8, the Bible says:

“For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”

The question then about all of this is what is godly and of eternal worth?

Put more specifically, what is my attitude toward exercise and food, make up and clothing, dining out and drinking – are they occupying spaces in my life in a godly way, or am I dependent on them in a way that is compulsive and masking of some deeper psychological and spiritual dysfunction?

Prayer dependence

Taking the specific example of exercise dependence* again, what would it be like if you and I had the highest score possible on this scale – where our minds and lives, all our relationships and social interactions, our very health, were totally dominated by the need to exercise? We’d be a mess. Life wouldn’t work.

Our relationships and responsibilities would suffer.

But what if this scale was called the Prayer Dependence Scale where our psychological and spiritual lives were measured based on how important time with Jesus was to us? What impact might our need to be with Jesus have on our relationships, our thought lives, our bodies, our finances, our recreation, our weekends and the myriad of choices we make?

It strikes me that we are called to be dependent. Not on exercise or food or words of affirmation, or gossip or sex or alcohol or drugs, but on the presence of Jesus Christ, around which our lives are meant to revolve, constantly gagging for more of him in a real way that moves beyond cliché.

As Augustine says:

“Our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you.”

King David said it like this:

” You, God, are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
where there is no water.”

This sounds like a pretty dependent man to me.

This life and the life to come

So, three questions to close:

  1. Do I feel dependent on Jesus?
  2. Do I feel dependent on prayer?
  3. Do I feel dependent on other things that shape my whole life more than I’d like to admit?

Father, we bring you our whole lives: we bring to you our bodies, minds, emotions, thoughts – everything that makes us who we are. And we invite you into the places of insecurity and brokenness that are not as they should be. We pray that you would breathe your wisdom and revelation into every aspect of our lives so that we would love you as we should, so that we would be surrendered to you with everything and so that whether we are eating or drinking, exercising or resting, working or playing, all would be to the glory of God. I pray now that you would give me eyes to see any areas that need specific attention and that you would move me into increasing dependence on you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

*For a more detailed look at exercise addiction, please click here.

Written by Nick Franks // Follow Nick on  Twitter //  Firebrand Notes

Nick Franks is a blogger/song-writer living in Edinburgh, Scotland. Learning to love as he should, Nick is engrossed in living a contagious life of worship and prayer, finding and leaving signposts for the Kingdom along the way. Nick sweats under his eyes when he eats too much cheese, adores Liverpool FC and has a strong preference for Earl Grey leaf tea. Nick is married to Mairi. Nick’s blog can be found at www.firebrandnotes.com and on Instagram here: www.instagram.com/nickpfranks.

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