The new study investigated how escapism connects to running, well-being, and exercise dependence.
Researchers have discovered that utilizing running as a means to escape unpleasant situations rather than as a means to attain positive ones may result in a dependence on exercise for runners.
Recreational running has many health benefits, but some individuals may become addicted to physical activity in the form of exercise dependence, which may have negative effects on their health. Surprisingly, symptoms of exercise dependence are common among recreational runners, according to a new research conducted by Frontiers in Psychology.
"Escapism is a common human phenomenon, but little is known about its motivational underpinnings, how it relates to experiences, and the psychological outcomes of it," according to Dr. Frode Stenseng of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, the lead author of the paper.
"Escapism is often defined as "an activity, a form of entertainment, or other form of entertainment" that assists in avoiding or forgetting unpleasant or boring situations," said Stenseng. "The psychological reward from escapism is decreased self-awareness, less rumination, and a relief from one's most pressing, or stressful thoughts and emotions."
Escapism may reclaim perspective, or it may serve as a distraction from pressing problems that must be addressed. In contrast, maladaptive escapism, which avoids negative experiences, is termed self-suppression. Effectively, running as exploration or as evasion.
"These two forms of escapism stem from two different opinions, to promote a positive mood or prevent a negative mood," said Stenseng.
Escapist activities used for self-expansion have stronger positive effects but also longer-term benefits. Self-suppression, on the other hand, tends to suppress positive feelings as well as negative ones and leads to avoidance.
The team recruited 227 recreational runners, half men, and half women, with varying training habits. Three different levels of escapism and exercise dependence were studied: an escapism scale which measured preference for self-expansion or self-suppression, an exercise dependence scale, and a satisfaction with life scale, which measured subjective well-being.
Researchers found that runners who preferred self-expansion and runners who preferred self-suppression escapism were very similar. Both escapism modes were linked to well-being, but self-expansion was significantly more linked to it.
Exercise dependency does corrode fitness gains, but it appears to be a function of exercise dependency as well as a cause. Lower well-being might be triggered by lower well-being as well as promoting it.
In the same way, experiencing positive self-expansion might be a psychological motive that increases exercise dependence.
"More studies using longitudinal research methods are required to better understand the motivations and outcomes of escapism," said Stenseng. "These findings may be useful for individuals who are attempting to reclaim their time with a maladaptive attitude."
Frode Stenseng, Ingvild Bredvei Steinsholt, and Pl Kraft, eds., "Running to get 'lost'? Do I: 10.3389/fpsyg.2022.1035196