Could Fitness Be the Key to Healing From Addiction?
Written by: Susan Treadway
Blog Contributor & Founder of Rehab Holistics
It’s no secret that the United States and many other parts of the world are currently battling a growing problem with addiction and addiction-related deaths. Tragically, drug abuse remains the leading cause of accidental death throughout our nation. An estimated 44 percent of Americans know a loved one who is addicted to prescription painkillers and that doesn’t include all the lives that are touched by other types of drugs, addictions and alcoholism.
As addicts and their loved ones are aware, recovering from addiction is a long and difficult process. It can feel like the addiction is controlling your life. If you (or a loved one) are addicted to alcohol or drugs, getting off those substances is only part of the battle. The other piece involves incorporating self-care into your daily routine. By renewing your focus on your mental, physical and emotional health, you’ll stand a greater chance of kicking your addiction for good and finally creating lasting sobriety.
What many people don’t realize is that physical fitness actually helps facilitate the body’s recovery from drug and/or alcohol addictions. Some types of exercise that may be effective in addiction recovery include:
- Yoga, which is a powerful method of stress relief that can help curb triggers and cravings;
- Aerobic exercise, which has been linked to positive changes in brain chemistry, molecular biology, mood and behavior;
- Running, which increases feel-good chemicals in the brain including serotonin that boost your mood and reduce anxiety or depression.
Of course, your physical health isn’t the only thing to consider. It’s equally important to take care of your mental and emotional health. The effects of exercise on the brain have been proven by more than one study. Studies also show that exercise helps reduce stress while also building confidence. According to Psychology Today, a leading website on human psychology and the inner workings of the brain, exercise also naturally increases our amounts of hope and optimism, both of which are extremely important qualities for those who are recovering from the grip of addiction.
In addition to the numerous benefits of exercise mentioned above, regular exercise combined with proper self-care can also help those in recovery prevent relapse. Naturally, if you’re reducing stress and improving positive mental traits including optimism, hope and happiness. You’ll be less likely to relapse and have an easier time overcoming relapse if it does happen. Drugs and alcohol alter the brain’s rewards system, however, exercise is a healthy way to reactivate that same system and help you return to a healthy sense of “normalcy” as you stop providing your body with the “high” it is craving from the drugs and alcohol.
For many people, getting started with a fitness routine is easy. The harder part, however, is maintaining an all-around healthy routine for the longer term. One thing that can help is by socializing with other people who are also into health and fitness and who do not tempt you to drink, smoke or take drugs. This change of social circles can reduce the chances of relapse, help you incorporate healthier habits and provide you with the support you need to stay clean and sober.
For those who are living with addiction, a fitness routine can be an effective and affordable method of regaining their lives. There are no side effects. You can’t overdose on yoga, metcons, or running. And the only high you’d get is a natural runner’s high. When used in combination with a treatment program and other recovery techniques, a healthy exercise and fitness routine can be key to a lasting recovery and lifelong freedom from addiction.