Exercise is included in many addiction recovery programs and there is good reason for that. There are several important ways in which physical activity enhances your recovery from drugs or alcohol helps you combat your addiction. Read on to learn the main reasons to exercise during addiction treatment.
Exercise provides structure to your day
When exercise is added as a regular part of your day, this helps provide the daily structure and routine you need to get your life back in gear. It can be difficult to find healthy activities to replace old behaviors, and exercise is the perfect solution, as it is physically and mentally stimulating, and can be adjusted to your physical needs. When added to your daily schedule, exercise reduces idle time, and provides a healthy foundation on which to start or end your day.
Exercise reduces cravings for drugs and alcohol
Multiple studies, including both animal studies and human trials, indicate that exercise can help reduce cravings and urges to use. One study, published in the journal Biological Psychiatry in 2010, found that cocaine-dependent rats had reduced cravings for the drug after aerobic exercise, due to changes in their brain chemistry brought about by the exercise.
Another study, published in the journal Addiction in 2004, found that recovering alcohol addicts had significantly reduced cravings for alcohol during moderate-intensity exercise.
Exercise reduces stress
Stress is a major indicator for relapse, and exercise helps prevent relapse by relieving stress. In addition to every day stress, exercise also helps with more serious mood problems, like depression and anxiety. As a result of getting regular physical activity, you feel better, you even sleep better, and you learn how to cope and regulate your moods without the assistance of drugs or alcohol.
Exercise provides social support
Many physical activities have a social component. Whether you are playing an organized sport, participating in an exercise class, or just jogging with a friend, you are engaging in a healthy activity with other people.
According to a meta-study published in The Scientific World Journal in 2012, having a social network unrelated to substance abuse helps prevent relapse, and group exercise has been shown to help improve communication skills, conflict management, and frustration tolerance in addiction recovery.
Exercise improves your physical health
While the previous items on this list are all related to the mental and emotional benefits of exercise, physical activity of course provides physical benefits as well. In many cases, addicts are in poor physical conditioning after years of abusing substances and neglecting their health.
Exercise delivers oxygen and nutrients to your body tissues, helping your organs and particularly your cardiovascular system function better. It also helps you deal with weight problems, high blood pressure, and other health conditions you may have developed as a result of your addiction. (Check out this blog post about the long-term effects of alcohol on your health — warning: it’s not pretty.)
Learn more about fitness and addiction treatment
You now know the multiple ways in which exercise helps heal your mind and body when recovering from a serious addiction. While exercise is only one piece of the puzzle in addiction recovery, it is an essential one that should not be ignored. Learn more about how the Health & Fitness Program at our Utah addiction center helps you recover from substance abuse and resist relapse.