Welcome to another Fitness Friday! We are really happy with the response to our articles on Brazilian jiu-jitsu, fitness, and how men’s health in sobriety involves more than just abstinence. For people seeking more information about our emphasis on fitness as a key component of recovery, we thought we would share some of the science that supports the design of our treatment methods at Solid Ground.
It is only as recently as 2011 that a clinical review by the National Center for Biotechnology Information in the U.S. showed multiple studies have “provided convincing evidence to support the development of exercise-based interventions to reduce compulsive patterns of drug intake in clinical and at-risk populations.” The most important breakthrough of these studies is that a fitness program is shown to have biological benefits to not only prevent relapse, but to actually reduce the compulsion of active addiction itself. One of the studies on rats showed that a serious exercise regimen (like Brazilian jiu-jitsu for example) decreases the “positive-reinforcing effects” of cocaine. In other words, the positive biological effects of the exercise make the cocaine stimulation less pleasurable and reinforcing. There is similar research for opioid addiction, with studies repeatedly showing that exercise such as treadmill running “significantly decreases the tendency of using morphine.” The science shows that disciplined exercise can be biologically more beneficial and compulsive, in terms of the reward systems at play, than the most addictive substances commonly abused.
Now, it’s true that rats in cages are not the same as grown men living in the modern world (although sometimes it feels that way!) but our experience working with such men shows time and again how real this science proves to be. The core methodology we have developed at Solid Ground to maximize these therapeutic effects of exercise is to add the element of community. Our program incorporates these physiological benefits in combination with a group dynamic and a shared experience. For many men entering recovery, their physical bodies and fitness levels have been neglected and in decline. By working together to make progress no matter what shape they’re in, our guys build friendships and learn teamwork. In other words, when we are practicing yoga or are training in mixed martial arts together, we’re not only stimulating healthy endorphins that reduce substance dependency, we are maximizing the positive reinforcement of healthy relationships. And as the world is starting to recognize human connections are what recovery really means.