What’s your poison? Sugar, television, shopping, alcohol, smoking, gaming, gambling, social media – nearly everyone in America is addicted to something. These addictions are dangerous for the body, the mind, and the wallet – either directly or indirectly. Other countries as well, including countries in Europe and Asia, and Australia.
A select number of people may have serious addictions, but many others have more subtle addictions. Even the straight and dry often have some type of addiction. Social media and smartphone addiction is also a real addiction, as is television. It may not seem like an addiction until they decide they want to stop – then they realize just how hard it is.
What creates addiction? Whether it is hard drugs or simply clicking little icons on a phone screen, nearly all addictions are very similar. It all comes from a release of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is the body’s “reward” chemical. It is what makes you feel good. Whether is is cocaine, sex, taking that sip of alcohol, or leveling up in the video game or candy crush on your phone, all of these have a similar function in the brain that leads to addiction.
With each of these addictions, when the addicted person indulges in their vice, the brain releases some dopamine. A television watcher enters a state of trance (their brain waves actually change during watching) in which they have a steady flow of dopamine released. A hard cocaine user will get a huge dopamine release all at once, but a smartphone user will get a continuous flow of tiny dopamine “hits”. Anonymous even released a youtube video warning the world about the danger of smartphone addiction. It is a real thing.
Exercise as treatment for addiction
How can exercise help to eliminate addiction? Simple. When you exercise, just like addiction, the healthy process of breaking down muscle during a workout releases dopamine. In fact, the dopamine release in the brain during an intense workout is quite similar to that of hard cocaine or sex, especially for an intense workout. Almost certainly, you will leave the gym happier and with more energy – physically and mentally – than when you entered. Well, with HIIT you’ll need about 30 minutes or before the energy boost, since you depleted all your energy stores during the exercise.
Once you start working out, to cope with the healthy pain from heavy lifting or intense running, the body will release endorphins to the body and dopamine to the brain as a sort of “pain killer”. In fact, actual pain killer pills activate the same biological pathways, which is the reason it works. If the body didn’t do this, then painkillers would not work.
Since intense exercise releases dopamine in the same away as an addiction (to pretty much anything) releases dopamine, this means that you can retrain your brain to accept a new, healthy activity to replace your old, unwanted behavior. But this doesn’t work if you don’t get that dopamine “hit” from your exercise. You only get that big endorphin and dopamine release when you do intense exercise.
High intensity exercise is the best form
So, why interval training? Interval training is probably the best way to break any addiction. You can also do it with intense weightlifting, but you would already have to be experienced to get a consistent good workout. But anyone can start doing intervals.
What are HIIT intervals? HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training. What it means is that you do a short period of high-intensity workout followed by a short period of rest. In HIIT like Tabata, which is a very popular form of HIIT, it calls for 20 seconds of maximum intensity (as close to 100% intensity as you can go, aim for 95%), followed by periods of rest of 10 seconds. Do this for 4 minutes and you have burnt the same energy as 30 minutes on a treadmill 3 days in a row, all in just one 4-minute session.
You can’t do HIIT by just saying, “ok I will jog on the treadmill and then walk for 10 seconds.” That is not HIIT. You would have to run at maximum speed. I think the treadmill is the worst place for HIIT, because the point is to go all-out, and by the end of 20 seconds you’re probably going to fly off the treadmill.
Instead, I recommend the exercise bike – the one with tension where you can increase how hard it is – or just a regular sprinting on a track. Get a warm up, and time yourself for 20 seconds at maximum speed, and then rest, and repeat. Or, sprint at maximum speed and rest accordingly, and repeat.
A few HIIT tips
Personally, the way I do HIIT, especially because I have only done for a few months, I warm up on the bike for 2 minutes, then go all out at maximum speed at the tension of my choice for 20 seconds, slow down to a casual pedaling speed for about 1 minute, and repeat this 4 times. Cool down for 2 minutes. Altogether the session is about 10 minutes. I can decrease my rest periods as my resting heart rate continues to improve. I have already seen some tremendous improvements.
This is just a brief overview of High Intensity Interval Training, but you can google many places to learn more about it. The key thing to remember is that on the intervals you are pushing yourself as hard as you possibly can. Don’t hold back even a little. By the end of your session, you should be totally wiped out and you’re going to have to just sit down for 10 to 15 minutes. If you are not wiped out, you didn’t do the intervals hard enough. Be sure to drink plenty of water. Bring a gallon jug with you which you can drink during your rest intervals.
Did you know? Even running in place is fine for intervals. Jump rope on the other hand isn’t as good though because your coordination is required meaning it is hard to go maximum speed continuously. But you can run in place and pump your arms in place at maximum intensity quite easy. Squeeze all your muscles on your whole body and run in place as fast and hard as humanly possible. It is so easy – and you have absolutely no excuse not to. You can do it literally anywhere – your living room, the middle of the mall, even out on the street. Do it in your house if you don’t want to get funny looks though.
Benefits of HIIT training
The reason HIIT is the best way to defeat any addiction is for a number of reasons.
1) HIIT increases testosterone levels in men, and in women it equally increases a healthy balance of hormones.
This means you will have: more energy, more willpower, and more mental energy.
2) The effects of HIIT last for many hours after completing the 4 to 10 minutes session. (This is in stark contrast for traditional casual cardio to which the effects only last under 5 minutes after ending your long session.)
The benefits of this long-lasting effect mean that even after you completed your session, your body is still flowing with positive hormones, dopamine, and other beneficial chemicals for hours afterward. This means it will literally increase your willpower and reduce your addiction cravings.
It means that literally you don’t have a craving for your addiction (or not as hard), because you already got your dopamine “hit” from the HIIT, and are still getting some dopamine hours later. As a bonus, if you start to feel a craving, instead run in place really hard for a few seconds to re-stimulate some blood flow and healthy body chemicals. It could help.
3) Completing an HIIT session takes just a few minutes, yet gives you a massive sense of accomplishment, because it is massively good for your body. This can break boredom, which often results from stagnation and feeling like you aren’t getting anything accomplished in life or that day.
This feeling of accomplishment further stimulates a healthy release of dopamine, and positive brain chemicals, and also increases your willpower on a psychological level, because you already proved to yourself you can do something worthwhile that day. Not only will it help you overcome addiction, but also it will also help you be even more productive.
4) Massive energy increase. HIIT in my experience is one of the number one ways to increase energy. It is like taking a hit of caffeine without any of the side effects. Imagine 4 cups of coffee worth of energy with absolutely no side effects and no jitteryness? You would have to do some HIIT to be able to fully comprehend what this feels like.
Not only that, but over time as you continue HIIT over many months, you will get more and more energy, motivation, willpower, and mental energy.
Why so much energy? Many reasons. First, you increase your hormones like testosterone (for men). Don’t worry women, you will get an equally positive balance of hormones for women. For men, this increase in testosterone continues to increase as your body gets more in shape. This will make you way more desirable to women. For women, this balance of increased good hormones will also increase as you get more in shape, making you more like a healthy woman and more desirable to men. These hormones literally increase your physical energy and your mental energy.
Next, HIIT will improve your resting heart rate. What this means is that you will have more oxygen in your blood, and your heart will be more efficient at pumping oxygen. You need this oxygen to think clearly. You also need this oxygen in the blood for energy to move. Therefore, an increase in oxygen in the blood in this natural way is going to literally give you more physical energy, as well as literally, physically giving you more mental energy, and thereby more willpower and self-control.
5) You will look better and feel better. Your confidence will increase. By looking better, feeling better and happier, having more energy, and feeling better and more confident about yourself, you will become better liked by all people, because people feel good around more attractive, healthier, and confident people. Now that you are better liked by all people, you will have less of a need to go to your vice, which is often a replacement for lack of healthy social interactions.
6) You will be better able to control your emotions. This healthy brain chemicals released during HIIT include, indirectly, a healthier balance of seratonin in the brain, which is the mood regulator. Also, since seratonin converts to melatonin in the brain at night, you will also have better sleep, thereby further increasing your moods, energy levels, lowering your stress, and improving your health. Moreover, better moods mean you will have a better time at work, in your relationships, and in your personal life. You will be able to sell more, get better deals in negotiations, and get your way more often, because when your emotions are in check and you can remain positive, people will be far more likely to give you the upper hand. Your income will increase, your will get more job offers, you will get raises, and all this will further increase your moods, self-control, and happiness about life.
Isn’t all this amazing? I can think of more things for sure, but this article is already quite long. It seems like HIIT is a miracle cure for everything – and the truth is – it really is. Also, with a healthier body you also have a healthier immune system, which also means that yes, you can really become cured of many diseases. This includes diabetes, back pain, and more problems that usually stem from an unhealthy lifestyle, poor choices, and excess fat. All this and also you can overcome your addictions? What are you waiting for!
Not only this, but studies prove that you only need to do 4 minutes (I do 10 with longer rests) only 2 to 3 times per week. This means you can do it on Monday and Thursday and that’s it! Or, you could do Sunday, Tuesday, and Friday.
What is more amazing is that the first time you do it, you will have immediate results. The first time I did it I was able to stop watching TV for 2 whole weeks. I had been trying for years without success until the first time I did HIIT. Since then, I have more energy, look great, am happier, and more productive than ever. HIIT is one of the best health hacks.
No more dragging yourself to the treadmill 5 days a week (or putting it off forever). You only need to spend about 10 minutes 2 to 3 times a week for way more gains than 30 minutes a day even 7 days per week, and this has been scientifically proven. If your are completely sedentary, even once per week can give you tremendous results. What a great health hack. So get out there and start improving your life with HIIT!