Risk for Exercise Addiction: A Comparison of Triathletes Training for Sprint-, Olympic-, Half-Ironman-, and Ironman-Distance Triathlons

Jason Youngman, Peak Functioning, LLC, USA
Duncan Simpson, Barry University, USA

Theme: Clinical issues

Program ID: LEC-15A

Presentation: October 5, 2013 1:30 pm - 2:30 pm

Room: Melrose


The physiological and psychological benefits of regular exercise are well established (Biddle & Fox, 1989; Biddle & Mutrie, 2008; Folkins & Sime, 1981; Lox, Ginis, & Petruzzello, 2010; World Health Organization, 2012). However, when taken to a compulsive, excessive level, exercise can become addictive, leading to negative physical, emotional, psychological, and social consequences (Szabo, 1995, 1998, 2000; Terry, Szabo, & Griffiths, 2004). In recent years the sport of triathlon (swim, bike, run) has exploded in popularity; USA Triathlon now sanctions more than 3,500 events and has over 140,000 members (USA Triathlon, 2012). However, because triathlon demands frequent and intense training (Millet et al., 2002), these athletes may be practicing dangerously excessive levels of exercising. This study investigated the risk of exercise addiction for triathletes using the Exercise Addiction Inventory (EAI; Terry, Szabo, & Griffiths, 2004). The sample consisted of 1285 male and female triathletes, ranging in age from 18 to 70 years old (M = 37.93, SD = 9.35). Results indicate that approximately 20% of triathletes are at risk for exercise addiction, and that training for longer distance races (i.e., Olympic-, Half-Ironman-, and Ironman-) puts triathletes at greater risk for exercise addiction than training for shorter races (i.e., Sprint). No significant association exists between the risk for exercise addiction and the number of years of participating. However, as the number of weekly training hours increases so does a triathlete’s risk for exercise addiction. The results suggest greater clinical attention and further research should be conducted on triathletes and exercise addiction. Furthermore, the results provide several practical implications for sport psychology practitioners working with these athletes.

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