Addiction help, exercise, and recovery – Running to stay clean

As we mentioned in recent posts, giving up addictive behaviors can be difficult.

Research on interventions has long shown that it’s a lot easier to reshape existing behaviors than it is to stop them. Therefore, refocusing, or rechanneling, your energy into something that will improve, not devastate your life should prove easier than simply stopping addictive behavior. Addiction recovery help is often centered on stopping the usage of drugs when instead, they should focus on replacing the use with something else.

Addiction help by active replacement

Exercise has been shown to improve mood, especially in the short term (1,2) and can therefore provide the extra emotional boost many addicts need when they first stop using. An article in the Journal of Sport Psychology reveals that running can create a sense of achievement, fulfill intrinsic and extrinsic needs, and provide a natural high (3).

An activity like running can provide a respite from daily life. It can also offer a means to re-direct most addicts’ need for something to obsess about.

Taking on a long-term running goal and getting involved in some training with appropriate short-term achievement markers can help people in recovery feel as if they’re regaining some measure of control over their seemingly chaotic life. Seeing yourself able to run longer distances, faster times, and feeling the health benefits can be very rewarding.

An inspiring story in Runner’s World magazine tells the story of a father and son who did just this, conquering their drug addiction by taking on the challenge of completing a marathon.

Addiction help, not a new disaster

Importantly, a study has found that animals that are prone to drug addiction are also more likely to develop obsessive running patterns (4). This suggests that a link between these behaviors does indeed exist and underscores the importance of being mindful even when performing these more benign activities; the goal is staying healthy after all.

Keeping this in mind, there are a few simple things that will help reduce the chances of injury as you start running:

Stretching is important for injury prevention. Activities such as yoga are beneficial for runners and can stretch out sore muscles, prevent your next injury, and relieve stress. (Runners World)

Make sure to set realistic running goals and not push yourself too far. Taking on too much too early will only lead to injury and burnout and hurt, not help your enjoyment of running.
So instead of just trying to quit, try changing behaviors that you commonly engage in into ones that are more productive.

Question of the day:

Have you found that running, or a similar form of exercise helped you kick bad habits?
If so, would you mind sharing your story?

contributing author: Katie McGrath

Citations:

1. Plante and Rodin. (1990). Physical fitness and enhanced psychological health. Current Psychology: Research & Reviews, Vol 9, Spr 1990, pp. 3-24.

2. W. De Coverley Veale (1987) Physiological and Psychological Effects of Short-term Exercise Addiction on Habitual Runners, Exercise Dependence Addiction 82 (7) , 735–740.

3. Mark H. Anshel (2005). Applied Exercise Psychology: A Practitioner’s Guide to Improving Client Health and Fitness, Springer Publishing.

4. Werme, M., Thoren, P., Olson, L., Brene, S. (1999). Addiction-Prone Lewis But Not Fischer Rats Develop Compulsive Running that Coincides with Downregulation of Nerve Growth Factor Inducible-B and Neuron-Derived Orphan Receptor 1. The Journal of neuroscience, 19, pp. 6169-6174.

contributing author: Katie McGrath

Addiction, exercise, recovery: Yoga practice and mindfulness in addiction recovery

contributing author: Katie McGrath

Continuing with our posts on the  relationship between addiction, exercise, and recovery, let’s discuss the benefits of yoga and

The origins of American Yoga practice

America first turned to yoga in the 60s as a way to get high without using drugs. Over the years, yoga has grown in popularity as evidence regarding it’s mental and physical health benefits accumulated. Yoga practice incorporates stretching and strengthening exercises that unite the body, mind, and spirit.

There are different forms of yoga that are available depending on one’s goals and personal preference. Ananda and Hatha are more gentle versions of yoga that focus on meditation and breathing to provide a relaxing escape after a busy day. Ashtanga and Kundalini are aerobic and energizing forms of yoga that are perfect for people who crave a more demanding workout. Living in Los Angeles has introduced me to a number of relatively new Yoga methods including Power Yoga, a more strenuous, strength-based, type.

Mindfulness and Yoga

Mindfulness is a popular meditation technique that is often used in combination with yoga to promote self-awareness. The concept of mindfulness is to become aware of one’s own thoughts, emotions, and sensations by breathing and concentration. Mindfulness increases sensitivity to bodily movements and states which may explain why it has been linked to improved immunity (1).

Yoga and mindfulness form a union to enhance positive feelings and outlooks. Research has shown that the combination of yoga and mindfulness can provide energy, satisfaction, and stability on an addict’s road to recovery (1).Beach Yoga

Yoga produces long lasting changes which helps maintain a healthy lifestyle (2). It is a positive way to cope with negative emotions, depression, and anxiety (1). Yoga creates a sense of calm and solace that most people do not have the chance to experience in their everyday life.

Yoga Journal has a collection of stories revealing the healing powers of yoga and can be used as one source to direct you if you’re interested in looking into yoga practice.

Stay tuned for more on addiction, exercise, recovery…

Citations:

1. Schure, Marc B., Christopher, John, Christopher, Suzanne. Mind-body medicine and the art of self-care: Teaching mindfulness to counseling students through yoga, meditation, and Qigong. Journal of Counseling & Development. Vol 86(1), Win 2008, pp. 47-56

2. Holthaus, Stephanie M. A phenomenological study: Yoga during recovery from drugs or alcohol. Dissertation Abstracts International: Section B: The sciences and Engineering Vol 65 (8-B), 2005, pg.4289

More CPDD Addiction research: Addiction, exercise, recovery!

Okay, this is probably the last addiction research update I will give focusing on the Reno conference. The rest of the stuff I learned will be incorporated into future posts.

I’ve written before about the relationship between exercise and recovery (see here) and I will surely write more since for me, it was a big part of the equation.

two separate studies at CPDD reaffirmed my belief that exercise can be a very useful tool in addiction recovery.

The first study, conducted in humans, examined the effect of incorporating an extensive exercise routine into a residential, as well as intensive outpatient, addiction treatment program. Their findings showed improved outcomes for participants in the short, as well as long run. These included length of sobriety, subjective assessment of well being, and more. In talking to the researcher, she seemed to believe that at least part of the effect was due to the relief of cravings achieved by allowing patients to focus on something that took effort, rather than simply sitting around.

The second, and to my mind even more interesting, study examined the effect of exercise on cocaine self-administration in rats. Researchers assigned half of their rats to a cage that had a running wheel while the others were assigned to a regular cage. the rats with the running wheel used the device to run an average of 12 kilometers a day! After a week of simply resting in their cages, when transferred to another cage for 2 hours a day, the rats who had the wheel in their cage took less than half as much cocaine as the rats who didn’t have a wheel. the “wheel-rats” were also found to run less after they began the cocaine portion of the experiment, but their cocaine-taking never got near that of the non-exercising rats. It seems that having the exercise did something to reduce the reinforcing power of cocaine.

I have a feeling that future research will show that these finding hold true for other drugs (like crystal meth, heroin, marijuana, cigarettes, and alcohol) and possibly even for behavioral addictions like food addiction, gambling, and sex addiction.

All in all, research seems to be supporting the notion that exercise can play a significant role in recovery from addiction. Whether it be for boredom relief or an actual internal change in the motivating power of drugs, it looks to me as if Addiction + Exercise = Recovery !