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Ironman and Science Agree: Exercise is Good for Recovery

Overcoming addiction is a process. Getting clean and staying clean is a daily battle.

This was true for Todd Crandell, who started drinking as a teenager. According to a recent Chicago Tribune article, that was only the beginning of his journey into addiction. He was soon experimenting with a number of drugs – cocaine, Valium, mushrooms, and pot, to list a few. It wasn’t until he was 26 that he finally hit rock-bottom: he was arrested for a third DUI. It was then that he decided to turn his life around. He kicked the drinking and drugs and found a routine that would ultimately help him – and others after him – to keep the victory over his addictions: exercise.

While not every addict needs to turn into a 23-triathlon competitor like Crandell, his story has inspired others to gain victory over their addiction through exercise. Ohio native Matt Boston, for example, was so inspired by Crandell’s recovery that he’s made “running one of the most important parts of [his] recovery.”

The biological evidence further establishes the connection between exercise and dopamine receptivity. University of Arizona researchers found that exercise not only provided a euphoric experience, but also helped restore those areas of the brain that had been damaged by drug use.

A rehab center in California is trying the concept on for size. They now require all patients to participate in daily exercises. The idea is to help patients not only find a positive replacement for their addiction, but also prepare them to maintain healthy habits in the future.

The idea is that people do what makes them feel better. Once they begin to experience the high of healthy exercise, the need for the drug is reduced.

That was reportedly true for the participants in one study. A group of cannabis-dependent adults were required to exercise a total of ten times in two weeks, for thirty minutes at a time. The results were astounding: the pot cravings were reduced by over 50%.

Crandell warns against transferring addictions. “Sometimes people get off drugs and then all they do is exercise. They’re just obsessed with something else.” Like the saying goes, everything in moderation.

Anyone interested in developing an exercise method for helping to stay clean can look up Crandells’ book, Racing to Recovery (2001).


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