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      Identifying the features of an exercise addiction: A Delphi study


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          There remains limited consensus regarding the definition and conceptual basis of exercise addiction. An understanding of the factors motivating maintenance of addictive exercise behavior is important for appropriately targeting intervention. The aims of this study were twofold: first, to establish consensus on features of an exercise addiction using Delphi methodology and second, to identify whether these features are congruous with a conceptual model of exercise addiction adapted from the Work Craving Model.


          A three-round Delphi process explored the views of participants regarding the features of an exercise addiction. The participants were selected from sport and exercise relevant domains, including physicians, physiotherapists, coaches, trainers, and athletes. Suggestions meeting consensus were considered with regard to the proposed conceptual model.

          Results and discussion

          Sixty-three items reached consensus. There was concordance of opinion that exercising excessively is an addiction, and therefore it was appropriate to consider the suggestions in light of the addiction-based conceptual model. Statements reaching consensus were consistent with all three components of the model: learned (negative perfectionism), behavioral (obsessive–compulsive drive), and hedonic (self-worth compensation and reduction of negative affect and withdrawal) .


          Delphi methodology allowed consensus to be reached regarding the features of an exercise addiction, and these features were consistent with our hypothesized conceptual model of exercise addiction. This study is the first to have applied Delphi methodology to the exercise addiction field, and therefore introduces a novel approach to exercise addiction research that can be used as a template to stimulate future examination using this technique.

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          Most cited references31

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          Consulting the oracle: ten lessons from using the Delphi technique in nursing research.

          The aim of this paper was to provide insight into the Delphi technique by outlining our personal experiences during its use over a 10-year period in a variety of applications. As a means of achieving consensus on an issue, the Delphi research method has become widely used in healthcare research generally and nursing research in particular. The literature on this technique is expanding, mainly addressing what it is and how it should be used. However, there is still much confusion and uncertainty surrounding it, particularly about issues such as modifications, consensus, anonymity, definition of experts, how 'experts' are selected and how non-respondents are pursued. This issues that arise when planning and carrying out a Delphi study include the definition of consensus; the issue of anonymity vs. quasi-anonymity for participants; how to estimate the time needed to collect the data, analyse each 'round', feed back results to participants, and gain their responses to this feedback; how to define and select the 'experts' who will be asked to participate; how to enhance response rates; and how many 'rounds' to conduct. Many challenges and questions are raised when using the Delphi technique, but there is no doubt that it is an important method for achieving consensus on issues where none previously existed. Researchers need to adapt the method to suit their particular study.
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            Development of a rational scale to assess the harm of drugs of potential misuse.

            Drug misuse and abuse are major health problems. Harmful drugs are regulated according to classification systems that purport to relate to the harms and risks of each drug. However, the methodology and processes underlying classification systems are generally neither specified nor transparent, which reduces confidence in their accuracy and undermines health education messages. We developed and explored the feasibility of the use of a nine-category matrix of harm, with an expert delphic procedure, to assess the harms of a range of illicit drugs in an evidence-based fashion. We also included five legal drugs of misuse (alcohol, khat, solvents, alkyl nitrites, and tobacco) and one that has since been classified (ketamine) for reference. The process proved practicable, and yielded roughly similar scores and rankings of drug harm when used by two separate groups of experts. The ranking of drugs produced by our assessment of harm differed from those used by current regulatory systems. Our methodology offers a systematic framework and process that could be used by national and international regulatory bodies to assess the harm of current and future drugs of abuse.
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              The influence of physical activity on mental well-being.

              The case for exercise and health has primarily been made on its impact on diseases such coronary heart disease, obesity and diabetes. However, there is a very high cost attributed to mental disorders and illness and in the last 15 years there has been increasing research into the role of exercise a) in the treatment of mental health, and b) in improving mental well-being in the general population. There are now several hundred studies and over 30 narrative or meta-analytic reviews of research in this field. These have summarised the potential for exercise as a therapy for clinical or subclinical depression or anxiety, and the use of physical activity as a means of upgrading life quality through enhanced self-esteem, improved mood states, reduced state and trait anxiety, resilience to stress, or improved sleep. The purpose of this paper is to a) provide an updated view of this literature within the context of public health promotion and b) investigate evidence for physical activity and dietary interactions affecting mental well-being. Narrative review and summary. Sufficient evidence now exists for the effectiveness of exercise in the treatment of clinical depression. Additionally, exercise has a moderate reducing effect on state and trait anxiety and can improve physical self-perceptions and in some cases global self-esteem. Also there is now good evidence that aerobic and resistance exercise enhances mood states, and weaker evidence that exercise can improve cognitive function (primarily assessed by reaction time) in older adults. Conversely, there is little evidence to suggest that exercise addiction is identifiable in no more than a very small percentage of exercisers. Together, this body of research suggests that moderate regular exercise should be considered as a viable means of treating depression and anxiety and improving mental well-being in the general public.

                Author and article information

                Journal of Behavioral Addictions
                Akadémiai Kiadó (Budapest )
                19 August 2016
                September 2016
                : 5
                : 3
                : 474-484
                [ 1 ]School of Psychology, University of Auckland , Auckland, New Zealand
                [ 2 ]Department of Exercise Sciences, University of Auckland , Auckland, New Zealand
                Author notes
                [* ]Corresponding author: Lucy Macfarlane; School of Psychology, University of Auckland, Tamaki Campus, 261 Morrin Road, Glen Innes, Auckland 1072, New Zealand; Phone: +64 9 373 7599 ext. 86875; Fax: +64 9 373 7902; E-mail: lucy.macfarlane@ 123456auckland.ac.nz
                © 2016 The Author(s)

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium for non-commercial purposes, provided the original author and source are credited.

                : 17 November 2015
                : 15 June 2016
                : 03 August 2016
                Page count
                Figures: 1, Tables: 3, Equations: 0, References: 42, Pages: 11
                Funding sources: No financial support was received for this study.
                Full-length Report

                Evolutionary Biology,Medicine,Psychology,Educational research & Statistics,Social & Behavioral Sciences
                obsessive–compulsive,Delphi technique,work craving,perfectionism,exercise addiction


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