The benefits of exercise for both body and mind are well-documented.
But did you know that exercise can also help people
struggling with addiction?
While many treatment strategies focus on the mental aspects of addiction, addicts often find that the physical component of exercise has therapeutic benefits, as well.
Let’s take a closer look at how fitness is an excellent ally in the struggle against addiction.
1. Fitness helps with withdrawal symptoms
Symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and insomnia are often most intense during the withdrawal period, including detox. A gentle exercise regimen can help lessen those symptoms, as well as ease physical symptoms such as muscle aches and joint pain.
2. Exercise provides needed structure
Regular exercise helps to create a routine and provide structure to the day. It offers a healthy distraction from addictive craving that may lead to relapse, and also helps take the mind off of stress, anxiety, and feelings of depression.
3. Improved mood
Consistent exercise releases endorphins in the brain that help to moderate its chemistry. In turn, they’ll help to improve mood, lessen cravings and stress, while also improving sleep quality.
Some studies show that exercise helps create new nerve connections in the brain that help heal your brain from the damage caused by addiction.
4. Improved physical health
Addiction can take its toll on your body and may lead to serious health issues. The good news is that exercise improves cardiovascular health while lowering the risk of diabetes and some types of cancer. It also strengthens the immune system.
Moreover, another benefit of exercise is that it helps many people in recovery to resume a normal sleep schedule.
5. Exercise helps prevent relapse
Exercise not only helps reduce addictive cravings but also can improve treatment outcomes. Studies show that people who regularly exercise are less likely to suffer relapses in their recovery from addictive substances and behavior.
6. Exercise helps balance brain chemistry
We’ve briefly touched on exercise’s positive effects on the brain, including an improved overall mood, but it also helps to balance brain chemistry – which is an important part of rehabilitation and recovery.
Habitual use of drugs and alcohol changes brain chemistry and alters the addict’s mood, stress, and physical energy. In time, the brain cannot produce the proper number of neurotransmitters needed to reach chemical equilibrium, which then leads to withdrawal symptoms. Because it releases endorphins, regular exercise can moderate brain chemistry to help it regain its natural chemical balance.
7. Exercise is a healthy distraction
Exercise, like mindfulness practices and meditation, not only reduces stress and improves mood but also serves as a healthy distraction to the cravings that may lead to relapse. It helps to take the mind off of stress, low moods, and anxiety that often intensify cravings.
8. An exercise program helps take up time
Keeping busy through healthy activities such as exercise helps take up time that was once spent engaging in addictive behaviors. The amount of time that people waste on their addiction is often staggering but suddenly having all that extra time on their hands can be a struggle, especially in the early stages of recovery. A regular, structured fitness routine helps to fill those hours with something that’s good for both mind and body.
Even getting ready to work out, and cooling down and cleaning up afterward, takes up time that might otherwise be spent on addiction.
The bottom line is that fitness is a useful tool to have when recovering from addiction. From improving a person’s physical and mental health to changing brain chemistry, exercise is helpful in many ways.
If you need more information about drug addiction and treatment options, please visit The Recovery Village website.