We here at Moving Crew HQ might seem pushy at times. But we pause this week to remind you that exercise should be an enjoyable part of a balanced life, not an overwhelming compulsion.

An article in the May issue of Psychology Today reports that, for a small but growing group, obsessive exercising may jeopardize health. Face it, this probably isn't you. And yet . . . . The article, citing an Italian study, notes that in extreme cases, exercisers stay in the gym for hours at a stretch, day after day and eventually run so low on body fat that they start burning muscle, which gives off a distinct, foul odor. Eee-ew.

Less-offensive signs of exercise addiction, said Kristen A. Walsh, public policy manager for the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, a health club trade group based in Boston, include: training when injured; working out several times a day; feeling angry or threatened when a routine is interrupted; and canceling social activities for exercise obligations.

Walsh, who said her group gets many calls from club owners about excessive exercisers, declined to suggest a healthy workout time limit. "Exercise is so beneficial up to a certain point, and that point is different for everyone," she said. "You can't look at someone's workout log and say whether they're addicted or not. When a regular exercise routine . . . starts to run one's life, it can become problematic."

So get out there and improve your health and fitness, but keep it in perspective. And hey, if you want to chat about it, join us for the Moving Crew live chat, Thursday at 11 a.m. at www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/liveonline/health/movingcrew.

-- John Briley

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