Prevalence of risk for exercise dependence: a systematic review

Adilson Marques, Miguel Peralta, Hugo Sarmento, Vânia Loureiro, Élvio R. Gouveia, Margarida Gaspar de Matos

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Exercise dependence (EXD) can be considered an addictive behaviour because it presents signs typical of other addictive behaviours. Despite possible health problems related to EXD, the prevalence of risk for EXD has never been systematically reviewed. Objective: This article aimed to systematically review the prevalence of risk for EXD. Methods: Studies were identified from searches in the ERIC, PsycINFO, PubMed, Scopus, SPORTDiscus, and Web of Science electronic databases up to June 2018. Empirical studies were selected if (1) they included the outcomes of the prevalence of EXD; (2) participants were regular exercisers; and (3) they were published in either the English, French, Portuguese, or Spanish languages. A total of 34 articles met the inclusion criteria. Results: The prevalence of risk for EXD was estimated to be between 3 and 7% of regular exercisers and the university student population, and between 6 and 9% of the athlete population. Conclusion: The results of this review indicated that the prevalence of risk for EXD varies with the characteristics of the exerciser, but an overall prevalence of 3–9% is estimated. Risk for EXD is a cause for concern and, from a public health point of view, is a problem that has to be addressed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)319-330
Number of pages12
JournalSports Medicine
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 14 Feb 2019


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