Why Exercise Helps Those in Recovery from Drug Addiction
Regular exercise can change the way your brain responds to rewards. A positive reward interacts with the brain’s neurotransmitters. These reward centers can be triggered by alcohol or drugs. Exercise can also cause a response to the neurotransmitters as well. Healthy physical activity is a critical aspect of the long-term recovery process.
Many people exercise during their drug and alcohol treatments. Studies have been conducted about the importance of exercise for recovery. Those patients in residential programs saw improvements in both mental and physical health with exercise. Exercise can be an invaluable part of the treatment process. Those struggling with both addiction and mental health issues can also benefit. Exercise is an essential step for long-term recovery treatment. Exercising every day can reduce the risks of a drug relapse. There are a few ways that exercise can help in the recovery process.
Exercise Balances Neurotransmitters
Most people in a rehabilitation program need to rebalance their brain chemistry. Exercise can help those patients do just that. Alcohol and drugs can change the way the brain reacts in certain situations. These substances release neurotransmitters that alter a person’s mood. When drug or alcohol use stops, the neurotransmitters cannot create a chemical balance. The reaction in the brain causes the patient to experience withdrawal symptoms. Even after detoxing from the substance, a person can still experience mood changes or cravings. Exercise can help to release endorphins into the brain. This can ease the patient’s stress levels and improve mood. Researchers have even found that smokers can reduce their nicotine cravings by spending more time in the gym.
Reduces Withdrawal Symptoms
When a patient starts to detox from drugs or alcohol, there are many psychological symptoms that can occur during the process. Some people will experience depression, anxiety, insomnia, or stress as they withdraw from the substances. A healthy exercise program can start to reduce some of those mental issues. It is not only psychological problems that can arise but physical ones as well. A person may have digestive issues, joint pain, muscle aches, and headaches as they begin to detox. Once again, exercise can help to manage these physical ailments. Exercise helps to end their dependence on chemicals and progress into long-term recovery.
Improves Brain Function
The frontal region of the brain struggles to function during drug and alcohol addiction. Exercise can start to improve activity in those regions. The Drug and Alcohol Review-Journal released a 2018 study praising the effects of exercise on the brain.
Reduces Chronic Illnesses
Prolonged drug and alcohol use can damage the heart, liver, lungs, brain, and other organs. Some patients may even have muscle atrophy due to substance abuse. Exercise can start to reverse some of that damage. Regular exercise makes the body begin to function as a whole, especially areas of the heart, lungs, and brain.
Makes a Great Distraction
A healthy recovery process needs to turn distractions into a routine. Some people use meditation and mindfulness to shut down the cravings. Exercise is another tool to stop those feelings that lead to the potential for a relapse. The patient can concentrate on an exercise routine instead of focusing on cravings and anxiety. This can help to reduce stress and discomfort during recovery.
Creates a Regular Schedule
Cognitive behavioral therapy tries to break the cycle of cravings. It uses daily, weekly, and monthly planning to reduce compulsive behavior. Exercise can be incorporated into this routine. Regular exercise helps the mind and body become stronger and healthier. Drug and alcohol triggers can be controlled when stress or boredom strikes during the day.
Don’t Let Exercise Become an Addiction
Some people may replace drugs and alcohol addiction with exercise. Healthy exercise is an important part of the recovery process. An obsessive need for exercise can create more problems for the patient. Those who struggled with addiction may be hyper-focused on exercise that it becomes a compulsion. It is important to find the right mix of exercise to fit into a schedule.
It is important to balance therapy, support groups, and exercise in the process of recovery. Exercise can be a valuable tool in helping drug and alcohol addiction. Physical activity can help the patient to recharge and refocus their mind during the rehabilitation process.
If you need more information on addiction treatment options, visit The Recovery Village.