Eating and Exercise Behaviors in Runners

Why do we run? Help us understand eating and exercise behaviors among runners.

So many studies have been completed regarding the benefits of exercise. It’s so easy to browse the internet or social media and find a motivating list of reasons to stay active. I love reminding myself of the many physical and mental health benefits I am receiving with each run or workout. But what about those times when exercise becomes harmful?

I’m no stranger to the exercise addiction myself, having experienced what I would consider a mild case of exercise addiction when I moved away to college. Lucky for me, my exercise obsession quickly became more healthy, as I signed up for my first race and discovered the beauty of balance and cross training. (Read about my journey here).

Many others, though, are not quite as lucky. Some find themselves addicted to the endorphin rush at the end of a workout, while others exercise excessively as a way to punish themselves – burning calories which they believe never should have been consumed. Eating and exercise behaviors can quickly become problematic for many runners, especially beginners.

Today I am sharing an article from Christina Scharmer at the State University of New York at Albany. She is researching problematic eating and exercise disorders among runners in order to learn ways to further prevent these instances from occurring. She is gathering data through a survey form and could really use your help! Filling out this simple, 5 minute survey with your own running habits will greatly help further the research. What better way to help out the running community?!

Why do we run? Help us understand eating and exercise behaviors among runners.

Check out her article and survey link below.

Why Do We Run?

Help Us Understand Eating and Exercise Behaviors in Runners

Researchers at the State University of New York at Albany are investigating possible risk and protective factors associated with compulsive exercise and disordered eating behaviors in recreational and competitive runners.

Survey link here:

Why run? Why do we choose to spend hours on the road or trail placing one foot in front of the other? As runners, we’ve consistently encounter similar questions and we all answer in our own way. We’ve all got the reasons that we lace up our shoes day after day.


  1. Running for Physical Health

Maybe we’re motivated to get or stay healthy. We know running is associated with improved physical health.

  1. Running for Mental Health

Or maybe we’ve experienced the mental benefits of running. Research shows that physical activity can lead to improved mood and cognitive functioning.

  1. Running for Community

Some of us run because it’s time we can spend with our friends and family. Running is a great social activity and can lead to the development of strong relationships.

  1. Running for adventure!

Perhaps we want to explore? We can run almost anywhere. Exploring a new route or trail can be fun and exciting and running allows us to discover places we wouldn’t otherwise experience.

All of these reasons are familiar to us and we can appreciate the benefits of running!


When running is problematic

Sometimes reasons for running can be problematic. For some, running can become excessive or compulsive and can be associated with disordered eating. In these situations, running can have very dangerous physical and mental health consequences.

While some recent research has started to look at these problems in runners, there is still so much we don’t know! Improving our understanding of why these problems develop and whom they impact will help researchers/scientists/psychologists/etc. develop prevention and intervention programs for runners who are struggling with problematic eating and exercise behaviors.

Want to help? You can! Researchers at the State University of New York at Albany are investigating possible risk and protective factors associated with compulsive exercise and disordered eating behaviors in recreational and competitive runners.  They are seeking volunteers to complete a brief 5-minute online survey or an optional extended 15-minute online questionnaire in exchange for a raffle entry for a $20 amazon gift-card (winners will be notified late summer/early fall 2018).

Survey link here:


Contact Christina Scharmer:

The study is being conducted by a graduate student at the University at Albany SUNY, under the supervision of Drew Anderson Ph.D.,


Allegre, B., Therme, P., & Griffiths, M. (2007). Individual factors and the context of physical activity in exercise dependence: A prospective study of “ultra-marathoners.” International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 5(3), 233–243.

Anderson, L. M., Reilly, E. E., Gorrell, S., & Anderson, D. A. (2016). Running to win or to be thin? An evaluation of body dissatisfaction and eating disorder symptoms among adult runners. Body Image, 17, 43–47.

Cook, B., Karr, T. M., Zunker, C., Mitchell, J. E., Thompson, R., Sherman, R., … Wonderlich, S. A. (2013). Primary and secondary exercise dependence in a community-based sample of road race runners. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 35(5), 464–469.

De Moor, M. H. M., Beem, A. L., Stubbe, J. H., Boomsma, D. I., & De Geus, E. J. C. (2006). Regular exercise, anxiety, depression and personality: A population-based study. Preventive Medicine, 42(4), 273–279.

Karr, T. M., Zunker, C., Thompson, R. A., Sherman, R. T., Erickson, A., Cao, L., … Mitchell, J. E. (2013). Moderators of the association between exercise identity and obligatory exercise among participants of an athletic event. Body Image, 10(1), 70–77.

Oja, P., Titze, S., Kokko, S., Kujala, U. M., Heinonen, A., Kelly, P., … Foster, C. (2015). Health benefits of different sport disciplines for adults: systematic review of observational and intervention studies with meta-analysis. British Journal of Sports Medicine. Retrieved from

2 comments / Add your comment below

  1. I love the category “running for adventure”. My hubby and I have traveled all over the world to do races. It’s a nice focal point for our vacations and it does lend a sense of adventure to the vacation.

    1. That’s awesome! Traveling for races is such a great way to see the world. Running gives us so many opportunities!

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