The Prevalence of Exercise Addiction Symptoms in a Sample of National Level Elite Athletes

Mia Beck Lichtenstein, Anna Katarina Melin, Attila Szabo, Lars Holm

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Exaggerated exercise volumes, lack of control, withdrawal symptoms and conflicts with family and friends are core symptoms of exercise addiction. The condition can lead to health problems and social isolation because exercise is given the highest priority in any situation. The prevalence of the risk of exercise addiction has mostly been assessed in leisure time exercisers such as runners, fitness attendees and cyclists. The prevalence proportion ranges from 3 to 42% depending on the type of sport and the assessment tool. The proportion is greater among elite athletes, and increases with the level of competition. This study's primary aim was to assess the prevalence of exercise addiction among elite athletes competing at national level and its secondary aim was to evaluate the psychometric properties of the Exercise Addition Inventory (EAI) in elite sports. Participants (n = 417) from 15 sports disciplines and with 51% women completed an online survey. Results showed that 7.6% were at risk of exercise addiction. This group was younger, exhibited tendency to exercise despite pain and injury, felt guilty if not exercising enough, and reported substantial eating disorder symptoms. The reliability and validity of the EAI was good suggesting that the scale is appropriate for measuring the risk of exercise addiction in elite athletes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number635418
Number of pages8
JournalFrontiers in sports and active living
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jun 2021

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2021 Lichtenstein, Melin, Szabo and Holm.


  • exercise addiction inventory
  • elite athletes
  • prevalence
  • validation
  • high volume exercise


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