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There is an assumption in the popular press that exercise dependence is common and an indicator of serious mental health problems. In fact, the prevalence of exercise dependence and its psychological effects are unknown. One major issue in previous writing has been lack of agreement of a definition (which would conform to criteria used for assessing other dependencies such as drug dependence) and a valid and reliable measuring tool. The authors of this study and a parallel quantitative study1 have used valid and reliable measuring tools complemented by qualitative data from interviews and have found that when exercise dependence is present it is likely to be secondary to an eating disorder. These findings support Veale's observation2 that primary exercise dependence is rare and may help to dispel the popular press viewpoint that everyone who begins an exercise programme is at risk of becoming dependent.
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