A systematic review of exercise addiction: examining gender differences

Delia Dumitru, Teona Dumitru, Anthony Maher

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)
57 Downloads (Pure)


Exercise addiction is a rising preoccupation for researchers as a susceptible cause of serious health issues and negative consequences for individuals. Although there are numerous studies that have analysed exercise addiction, only a few have examined possible gender differences. To estimate if there is a prevalence difference between men and women relating to exercise addiction, a systematic review was conducted. Bibliographic searches were performed via PubMed and PsycINFO databases limited to English language, studies on humans, and since 2000, with the search terms: ‘exercise addiction inventory’ and ‘exercise dependence scale’, with a result of 590 potential relevant entries. Titles were then reviewed for duplicates and non-peer reviewed papers, which were then excluded. This resulted in a list with of 433 articles. Subsequently, abstracts and methods were reviewed using the following inclusion criteria: studies using the Exercise Addiction Inventory and/or the Exercise Dependence Scale, as these are the only available screening tools to identify the individual at risk of exercise addiction. The full text of the resulting 88 articles was then analysed, focusing on studies providing data about gender differences on the prevalence of exercise addiction (number of participants, percentages, and/or means and standard deviations). As reported by the 27 studies included in the final systematic review that met all the inclusion criteria, the effect size reflects variation in gender differences. Cohen’s d was between .04 and .98, suggesting that men are more addicted to exercise than women. Only two studies reported that the prevalence for exercise addiction was higher in women than men. However, our study concludes that more research is needed to understand the gender differences on the prevalence of exercise addiction, and the nature of this potential disorder.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1738-1747
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Physical Education and Sport
Issue number3
Early online date30 Sept 2018
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2018


  • addictive behaviour
  • exercise addiction
  • gender differences
  • systematic review


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