POSTED: Monday, August 20, 2012 - 8:00am
UPDATED: Friday, August 24, 2012 - 4:54pm
NBC NATIONAL NEWS — Fifty-three year old Chris Lear admits he was never a runner before but when he decided to join a racing series last year, he said the thrill of the competition became addictive.
"Once you start winning, it's very contagious," explained Lear.
He started training harder, running longer distances, and adding boot camp classes.
But it was all starting to take a toll on his body.
"I just hit a point where I couldn't walk any more," recalled Lear.
Medstar Georgetown Hospital physical therapist Scott Epsley says he's seeing more and more patients like Lear who are over exercising and taking their work outs to dangerous extremes.
"It's very common in runners to see this particular to see this over exercising mentality." Said Epsley. "There seems to be that kind of physiological type a personality."
In the last twelve years, the number of people finishing marathons increased by fifty percent.
And it's not just runners.
The number of yoga practitioners has exploded from four to twenty million in the last decade.
"That fear of getting fat, fear of losing control," explained Dr. Antonia Baum, psychiatrist. "Fear of losing structure in their day to day life, not being in shape, not being desirable.
Dr. Baum said over exercises is often similar to people with eating disorders.
They use exercise as a way to control their lives. Or as an escape but it becomes a problem when it gets in the way of social activities or relationships or of course when it starts to affect their bodies physically.
"Unfortunately, the way most people know is because they start to get pain," said Epsley.
The pain comes from over usage injuries usually bone stress, shin splints, tendonitis.
Epsley says over exercise will also feel extreme fatigue and joint stiffness.
Doreen Gentzler reporting.