Reexamining the imagery and exercise dependence relationship


The benefits of regular exercise participation are well known, however, in more extreme cases, exercisers can become dependent, where exercisers feel compelled to continue despite physical injuries or psychological harm (Hausenblas & Symons-Downs, 2002a). One cognitive correlate of exercise dependence is exercise imagery. Previous research has assessed imagery using only three types of imagery and exercise dependence as a global construct. Assessing the five types of exercise imagery and their relationship with the individual exercise dependence symptoms would expand what we know about exercise dependence but also inform interventions to address exercise dependence. As such, the purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between imagery and exercise dependence using more comprehensive measures of both constructs. Participants included 339 male and female adults that completed measures of exercise dependence and imagery. Participants completed the Imagery Inventory –Revised (Giacobbi et al., 2010) and the Exercise Dependence Scale (Hausenblas & Symons-Downs, 2002). Results indicate that certain types of imagery are related to different exercise dependence symptoms. Appearance and health imagery are associated with more tolerance, reduction in other activities, and lack of control symptoms. Routines imagery is positively associated with intention effects, whereas technique imagery is negatively associated with intentions effects. Feelings imagery was associated with more withdrawal symptoms of exercise dependence. The patterns of exercise imagery use may have important implications for interventions aimed at reducing/preventing exercise dependence.