Racing, and Exercising, to Recovery
> 10/12/2006 10:03:57 AM

A story in today's New York Times profiles former crack addict Todd Crandell, whose recently released memoirs detail his conversion from a drug dealer and user to 12 time Iron Man. Mr. Crandell credits his sobriety to his change of focus to athletics and endurance sports, and has dedicated himself to helping others achieve the same through his foundation, Racing for Recovery.

Exercise, although not always pushed by therapists and treatment centers, can be a powerful part of the process of beating drugs and alcohol. Physical health and mental health are strongly connected, and there is a significant body of research that documents the positive effects that exercise can have in treating depression and anxiety problems.

A new study seems to back up the idea that exercise can play a role in addiction recovery. Butler Hospital, affiliated with Brown University in Providence, R.I., recently completed a study that tracked 44 alcoholics and found that outpatient treatment and 12 weeks of aerobic conditioning increased the likelihood of their remaining sober...

Dr. Provet, a clinical psychologist, calls physical activity “the perfect antidote to addiction.” Ordinary hobbies don’t suffice, he said. “Knitting is good, but knitting does not address the negative breakdown of the human spirit and human body. Running does.”

Another key doctors point to is the feelings of thrill and accomplishment that physical activity can bring. One former addict became a champion freestyle snowboarder. The thrill or "edge" that he got from competing and flying around on his board served as a good release, and helped him deal with the loss of his chemical highs. But for many, simply finishing a race can serve as a success that provides strength. Instead of putting life off and hiding behind an addiction, the completion of a long run or meeting a goal can be that reminder of the ability to achieve. There is a structure in the process as well, that helps many beat their addictions. Whatever it is that helps those in recovery draw strength, there is much to be gained from physical fitness and a treatment regimen that includes exercise.

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