Can cycling be addictive? A qualitative interview study among amateur female cyclists

Baker, F., Griffiths, M.D. ORCID: 0000-0001-8880-6524 and Calado, F., 2023. Can cycling be addictive? A qualitative interview study among amateur female cyclists. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 21, pp. 1746-1769. ISSN 1557-1874

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Exercise and healthy eating are proposed as a recommended lifestyle by the World Health Organization with several positive outcomes, including a decrease in pathologies such as diabetes and reduction in mortality rates. However, research suggests that there is the potential for exercise behaviour to become addictive among a small minority of individuals , which detrimentally impacts their lives. The risk of exercise addiction increases for endurance sports, of which cycling is considered one, given the intense physical and psychological demands, due to elevation and distance, in amateur cycling events. Understanding the risk factors specific to cycling is worthy of investigation, as it is not clear whether cycling can become an addiction. Using the 'addiction component model' as a framework, qualitative analysis was used to determine whether symptoms of addiction were present among a sample of eight female cyclists. Through the use of thematic analysis, the results showed that symptoms of addiction were reported by participants. Three themes were generated from research interviews comprising 'addiction components' (i.e. salience, conflict, mood modification, tolerance, withdrawal, and cycling despite health problems), 'enabling infrastructure' (i.e. supportive work, supportive family and friends), and 'striving for excel-lence' (i.e. needing to be the best, pushing too far, and having unrealistic expectation), currently measured in the 'addiction component model'. There were also novel themes including 'cycling above health' where the participant continues to cycle against medical advice; 'enabling infrastructure' where work, family, and friends are accepting of cycling; and 'striving for excellence' where the participants 'needing to be the best' when comparing themselves to their peers, 'pushing too far' to achieve the goal set, and finally 'unreal-istic expectations' resulting in negative comparison to peers. These findings suggest that addiction to cycling should be investigated further, and implications may necessitate clinical intervention to find alternative coping mechanisms when exercise is not available to an individual as there is a likelihood that individuals will continue to exercise in spite of injury and against medical advice.

Item Type: Journal article
Publication Title: International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction
Creators: Baker, F., Griffiths, M.D. and Calado, F.
Publisher: Springer
Date: June 2023
Volume: 21
ISSN: 1557-1874
Rights: © the author(s) 2021. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit
Divisions: Schools > School of Social Sciences
Record created by: Jonathan Gallacher
Date Added: 25 Aug 2021 13:13
Last Modified: 08 Aug 2023 10:39

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