Can CrossFit Help Treat Addiction?

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by SAVANNAH MARIE

Can CrossFit Help Treat Addiction?
To put it simply, whether you are addicted to drugs, alcohol, shopping, sex, or something out of the ordinary, the answer to the above question is “yes.” It’s all a matter of replacing an unhealthy high with a more natural high.

The (Basic) Science

[I]f you can’t sleep knowing you didn’t do enough reps or push-ups that day, then you have to take a step back and recognize that your problem is back — the addiction just has a different focus.
Scientists have done multiple experiments using humans and mice to determine the relationships between drug addictions and exercise. Whether it was drugs or shopping, when participating in their addicting habits, those in recovery were introduced to endorphins that gave them a “high” feeling. As most of us have learned in health class or by watching Legally Blonde, exercise also gives you endorphins, which, in turn, also make you happier on average. By replacing the endorphins released from the addicting substance with endorphins from exercise, addicts have less of a desire to return to their addictions.

Introducing CrossFit to Your Rehab

In a 2012 study, researchers monitored humans, canines, and ferrets to determine the impact of running on neurobiological rewards. While the results matched experiments done by scientists in the past, running is not for everyone. Because the same impact on fighting addiction can be seen from any form of exercise, CrossFit exercises are a popular alternative to repetitive and monotonous exercises, such as basic running. Like running, CrossFit provides recovering addicts with the possibility of performing exercises everywhere, whether they are home, traveling, or in a rehabilitation center like 12 Keys Rehabilitation for example. In fact, many rehabilitation centers across the country are introducing mandatory exercise sessions for recovering addicts.

Another positive aspect of CrossFit is that it allows addicts to strive towards a healthy goal.
Events, games, and invitationals are hosted across the country for athletes who have trained with CrossFit. In fact, the CrossFit Games is almost like an exercise version of the Olympics. What better reward for a recovering addict than winning an award for working hard to beat their addiction? Not only will they be in better health and in better shape, they will have a physical reminder to look at everyday which tells them they did what they needed to do… and are better physically and mentally for it.

Other Benefits of Exercise for Addicts

Other Benefits of Exercise for Addicts
While participating in CrossFit and other exercises helps addicts control their urges to use again, it also helps reverse some of the brain damage they may have caused with their addiction. Rats that had been introduced to meth had lost the use of dopamine and serotonin receptors. Half of the rats were forced to run while the other half were left alone in cages to just sit around. Those that ran had a positive reversal effect on their receptors while the others were left with a brain that resembled the Swiss cheese they were likely to eat for lunch that day.

Exercise in Strides

The numbers have proved that exercise greatly benefits those recovering from addiction. However, it is important not to replace one addiction with another.
The numbers have proved that exercise greatly benefits those recovering from addiction. However, it is important not to replace one addiction with another. Whether you are running, using the kettlebells, or doing the most challenging WODs of CrossFit, it is critical that you do not over do it. By pushing yourself to lose 3 inches of your waist a week or gain 3 pounds of muscle every two days, you are unintentionally setting yourself up to fall into the same addictive patterns that you had with drugs or alcohol. If exercising becomes something you have to do 24/7, if you can’t sleep knowing you didn’t do enough reps or push-ups that day, then you have to take a step back and recognize that your problem is back — the addiction just has a different focus.

As was mentioned above, many rehab facilities are introducing mandatory exercise sessions for their patients, but that session is usually one hour a day and there is a structured routine. Addicts are given a list of what exercise to do and how long they are to do it. If they stick to the healthy schedule laid out by doctors, the risk of becoming an exercise addict while fighting other addictions becomes much lower than it already was.

Savannah Marie is a writer and health and wellness junkie. She is the editor of her blog, Mixios. When she isn’t writing or spending time at her box, she is walking a trail with her yellow lab, or reading a classic novel.

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