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How Exercise and Addiction Work Together in Recovery

Bicyclist celebrating win with exercise and addiction recovery
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How Exercise and Addiction Work Together in Recovery

A key aspect of recovering from addiction includes facing (and tackling) challenges that represent the hurdles one will encounter when first entering the recovery world. Many times, addicts facing a physical activity or fitness goal will actually use less than before they started applying exercise to their recovery routine.

The benefits of exercise on our health has been seen ten-fold, and more and more research has been done surrounding leveraging exercise as a way to reduce addiction. More drug rehab  and alcohol rehab centers have started to provide fitness-based or experiential programs as a way to overcome addiction and get on the path to sobriety. Below are a few examples of case and research studies that showcase exercise as the main aspect of recovery.

Matt Boston of Sylvania, Ohio.

In a story from the Chicago Tribune, Matt Boston, a long time alcoholic, notes that he drove home drunk and the guilt of the decision weighed on him heavily, ultimately leading him to seek counseling following the incident. Boston learned the valuable lesson from counseling that exercise can provide a sort of schedule and routine that is required to combat addiction. According to Boston, who swiftly picked up running to keep his mind off of his addictions, “Running is one of the most important parts of my recovery.” Like many others, he did not expect the widespread benefits seen from a simple increase in exercise. He has started running marathons and thanks Todd Crandell for the push to stay clean.

Todd Crandell, Founder, Running for Recovery

Todd Crandell, also located in Sylvania, Ohio, is referred to the addict-turned-iron-man and established the recovery program, Racing for Recovery back in 2001. Racing for Recovery is a fitness-promotion program designed to battle substance abuse. Crandell, the founder, struggled with drug and alcohol addiction nearly his entire life, starting as young as 13-years old. Crandell was focused on becoming a pro-hockey player but changed his path when he got caught up with the a group of friends that were using drugs. He founded Racing for Recovery as a way to “help people who got clean to stay clean.” The program hosts yearly 5k races as well as olympic-level triathlon and half ironman races across a number of cities. People on the road to recovery, as well as their family members, are welcome to take part in the center’s activities.

Vanderbilt University Research

This research study involved a group of ‘heavy’ marijuana users that were asked to run on treadmills for 30 minutes, 10 times, over a two-week-period. After just a few exercise sessions, users saw a dramatic drop in their cravings and marijuana use (decrease of more than 50%). And it is not only marijuana use that can be reduced significantly with exercise…

2011 Research in Frontiers

Epidemiological studies reveal that individuals who engage in regular aerobic exercise are less likely to use and abuse illicit drugs. A 2011 analysis of research published in Frontiers in Psychiatry revealed how exercise is a powerful tool for reducing self-administered use of a host of other mind-altering substances, including cocaine, meth, nicotine and alcohol.

Mishka Shubaly

Self-proclaimed “irreverent young drunk,” Mishka Shubaly, reveals on CNN that his road to recovery began five miles at a time. Shubaly tells-all in his memoir, “The Long Run” which is focused on how to stay active as a way to combat negative, addictive behaviors.

Danish Study

38 participants (23 male and 15 female) took part in exercise groups three times per week for two to six months. The results show that physical exercise can provide important support in the treatment of drug abuse and that the main problem is maintaining change in behaviour and peer group influence to ensure long-term change.

Krissy Mae Cagney, Founder of Black Iron Gym

Black Iron Gym was founded in Nevada in hopes of providing a safe place for former addicts to stay on the clean path to sobriety. The founder, Krissy Mae Cagney, struggled with alcohol and cocaine addiction for years, and was placed into numerous rehabilitation programs in her teens and early twenties. Cagney established the gym in hopes of providing a safe place for former addicts to channel their recovery into physical fitness. Like many others, Cagney found that the best way to keep her from using drugs and alcohol were the days she would spend in the gym.

If you are struggling with addiction, it may be time to consider exercise as one part of a more comprehensive recovery treatment program including therapy, counseling and substance use monitoring. Wasatch Recovery takes a holistic approach, where addiction prevention is found through healthy lifestyle promotion. Adventure-based experiential programs allow you to work through your challenges in a safe environment, putting your health and active lifestyle as the focus.

When you’re ready to break the addiction cycle and lead a lifestyle of recovery, we’re right there with you.

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