Many drug addiction treatments now include exercise as a major therapy for many good reasons. Exercise helps combat withdrawal symptoms and reduces the chances of relapsing. Working out regularly speeds up the recovery process and helps addict foster a happy, drug-free life both physically and emotionally.
But Does It Actually Work?
Eminem, the legendary “Kings Never Die” rapper, told Men’s Journal that physical workout helped him beat drug addiction. He told the magazine that exercise gave him a natural endorphin high and helped him sleep better.
The Scandinavian Journal of Public Health conducted a study with drug abusers who incorporated exercise into their rehab programs. Participants claimed to have more energy, better breathing, improved quality of life, and reduced drug intake.
The Science-Backed Benefits of Exercise For Drug Addicts
During the recovery process, the addict’s body and mind are lacking endorphins, a substance responsible for inducing a ‘high’ feeling. Add in the stress to the mix, and the stubborn withdrawal symptoms can heighten cravings, which may sabotage the recovery process.
This is where pushups, squats, and weightlifting come in. After a good sweat session, our body releases endorphins that give the same euphoric sensation that accompanies an artificial high caused by drugs.
Exercise makes us feel naturally high, elevates good mood and combats negative feelings. It releases a chemical called galanin in our brain which diminishes stress-related cravings including drugs and alcohol.
Benefits of Working Out
Some of the other benefits of a regular workout for recovering addicts are:
Insomnia is a common consequence of drug addiction. As your body gets back to a healthier state, exercise helps restore the normal sleep cycle. Plus, a well-rested body heals faster than one that is not given the right amount of rest.
When you create fitness goals and start accomplishing them, it naturally sparks the motivation to continue with drug and alcohol treatment. Exercise helps establish specific, measurable, attainable, and time-bound goals due to the fact that most fitness aspects can be tracked. Your focus on achieving these milestones shifts your thoughts from negative patterns to positive ones.
Working out pushes blood more aggressively through the heart, which results in increased oxygen level in the body. Thus, regular exercise boosts oxygen levels that further serve to improve overall energy.
Furthermore, a body that is physically fit performs daily life activities easily and efficiently by utilizing less energy. That’s why many people exercise daily in the morning to expand their energy level and fuel the body for the rest of the day.
So, incorporating a daily exercise routine helps newly-sober individuals as they re-manage the demand of daily life.
Reduces Stress and Improves Mood
Mood swings are common during the detoxification process. One minute, the recovering person feels empowered and motivated and the next, that same individual may feel sick and disheartened.
Exercise helps improve the mood by releasing endorphins that induce happiness and euphoria. Recovering addicts deal with anger and frustration. Going for a run or lifting weights may help manage anger and frustration without relapsing.
Strengthens You Inside and Out
Regular exercise shapes your body as well as the mind. It helps stave off obesity, type-II diabetes, heart diseases, and boosts immunity. Moreover, it increases the number of new nerve connections in our brain, which helps heal from the effects of substance use.
Popular Exercises For Drug Addicts
Nowadays, almost every drug rehab center offers yoga treatment as a part their addiction recovery program. This is because yoga and meditation offer numerous physical and mental benefits.
Power yoga, which is even more demanding, helps release dopamine in the brain. On the other hand, restorative yoga plunges one into meditation, which unpacks anxiety that easily triggers a relapse.
Studies show that hiking and walking also increase dopamine levels in the brain. A 15-minute brisk walk helps fight craving during the recovery process.
Weightlifting contributes to better sleep cycle, which is beneficial for recovering addicts fighting insomnia due to the addiction.
Running improves blood circulation in our body and increases oxygen flow in our brain, which fosters better, positive and clear thinking.
Group games with like-minded friends provide a fun way to work out, making team games a great way to work toward long-term recovery. Also, new relationships with new people help recovering addicts feel integrated and accepted into sober society.
Developing an Exercise Routine – Tips For Recovering Addicts
Incorporating an exercise routine can be challenging for addicts! The rule is – start slow and keep working your way up.
- Pick exercises or physical activities you enjoy
- Make a schedule to hold yourself accountable.
- Join a team or class to make exercise more fun
Cautions About Exercising in Recovery
Undoubtedly, exercise helps prevent relapse and speeds up the recovery process. But there is a risk. Too much exercise can become compulsive. So, be careful not to replace your drug addiction with the new addiction – workout addiction, which is also bad for your mind and body. Whatever you do, don’t try to push your body beyond its limits.