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Identifying the features of an exercise addiction: A Delphi study
Authors: Lucy Macfarlane, Glynn Owens and Borja del Pozo Cruz


There remains limited consensus regarding the definition and conceptual basis of exercise addiction. An understanding of the factors motivating maintenance of addictive exercise behavior is important for appropriately targeting intervention. The aims of this study were twofold: first, to establish consensus on features of an exercise addiction using Delphi methodology and second, to identify whether these features are congruous with a conceptual model of exercise addiction adapted from the Work Craving Model.


A three-round Delphi process explored the views of participants regarding the features of an exercise addiction. The participants were selected from sport and exercise relevant domains, including physicians, physiotherapists, coaches, trainers, and athletes. Suggestions meeting consensus were considered with regard to the proposed conceptual model.

Results and discussion

Sixty-three items reached consensus. There was concordance of opinion that exercising excessively is an addiction, and therefore it was appropriate to consider the suggestions in light of the addiction-based conceptual model. Statements reaching consensus were consistent with all three components of the model: learned (negative perfectionism), behavioral (obsessive–compulsive drive), and hedonic (self-worth compensation and reduction of negative affect and withdrawal).


Delphi methodology allowed consensus to be reached regarding the features of an exercise addiction, and these features were consistent with our hypothesized conceptual model of exercise addiction. This study is the first to have applied Delphi methodology to the exercise addiction field, and therefore introduces a novel approach to exercise addiction research that can be used as a template to stimulate future examination using this technique.

Open access