Posted by: RealisticRecovery | January 24, 2011

Group Exercise Helps Addicts

Group Exercise Helps Addicts

By Therese J. Borchard

Even before I read Kate Dailey’s Newsweek post, “From Excess to Exercise: Group Helps Men and Women Live Sober Through Sweat,” I was a firm believer in group exercise as a way to treat addiction. For a variety of different reasons:

  • The bond and community element is much like those that form in 12-step groups,
  • The exercise itself has an antidepressant effect: the dopamine release can help to minimize the craving for alcohol and drugs,
  • A kind of discipline is learned that will benefit the recovery from addiction,
  • A sense of empowerment is achieved.

I relied on group exercise just as much as my meetings when I was newly sober. A few of us would take long bike rides on the weekends that helped me grieve the loss of my best friend (liquor). I look back with fondness on those afternoons, when a dozen of us would bike 20 miles to a pancake place where we’d consume the calories we had just worked off. I don’t know if it was the dopamine high or the group support, but those bike rides gave me hope that my life didn’t have to be stoic and boring just because I was going to stay out of bars.

In her post, Dailey features a nonprofit group called Phoenix Multisport, based in Boulder, Colorado, that hosts more than 35 athletic activities a week: running, mountain climbing, biking, and yoga. It was founded by Scott Strode, 37, who is a recovering alcoholic and wanted a healthy outlet for folks in recovery.

Mark Smith, a professor of neuroscience at Davidson University, explains to Dailey how exercise can protect the brain against addiction. Dailey writes:

His research on rats shows that access to exercise reduces the appeal of cocaine. “Vigorous exercise increases dopamine concentrations in the brain in the same sections that are affected by cocaine,” he says. “Exercise mimics a lot of the effects of the drugs.” Whether this mimicry alone is enough to help wean addicts off their addiction has yet to be established, but it’s clear that there’s far more to Phoenix’s appeal than brain chemistry.

To Continue with this this article, please click here: Psychcentral.com – Group Exercise Helps Addicts

To see a Newsweek article and Video on this same topic, Please click here: Newsweek.com – From Excess to Exercise: Group Helps Men and Women Live Sober Through Sweat by Kate Dailey

Please click here to visit the author’s blog: Therese J. Borchard

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