While it is generally accepted that helping recovery on its own is not enough, addiction experts have known for decades that exercise has beneficial effects on substance use disorders. Today, almost all drug rehabilitation centers use some form of exercise as part of their program, regardless of their specific approach.
However, a better understanding of the mechanisms behind these effects and the true scope of these benefits has only emerged in recent years.
Here are just a few ways to exercise people going through addiction recovery.
1. Exercise Strengthens the Immune System
Many substances that are commonly abused, such as opioids and alcohol, have a direct negative effect on the immune system. People living with substance use disorders may also stop monitoring their health. When the immune system is weakened, a recovering individual may get sick more often, which can disrupt their motivation and focus on recovery.
Moderate exercise has been proven to boost the immune system, although this is always a good thing, it’s particularly beneficial for people recovering from a substance use disorder.
2.Improved Sleep Patterns
Regular exercise has been shown to help regulate sleep patterns. It can be very important for individuals recovering from addiction, a sleep disorder associated with drug and alcohol withdrawal. More and better quality sleep is a particularly important point, as many people begin to abuse substances such as alcohol, benzodiazepines, and opioids to sleep better.
3.Reduces Depression and Anxiety Symptoms
Whether a cause or consequence of drug use, depression and anxiety are very common among people with substance use disorders. These effects are particularly acute in the early stages of the healing process. While not often enough to treat these disorders on their own, they can help with conventional treatment and help the individual become less dependent on medication for their symptoms.
4. Reduces the Risk of Recurrence
Several studies support the idea that regular exercise can greatly reduce the risk of relapse. Some studies even state that success rates are over 90%, provided that recovering individuals can maintain their exercise levels.
One reason this happens is because it goes back to the previous point. Exercise releases and normalizes the levels of hormones such as endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine in the body, which helps regulate mood and helps control symptoms of depression and anxiety. Another possible reason is that regular exercise rebuilds the reward pathways of the brain so that the brain becomes less dependent on medications to feel normal.
Many people with substance use disorders turn to medication in response to stress. Unfortunately, this is largely unsustainable and can lead to all kinds of harmful physical and mental effects. Fortunately, moderate regular exercise can also work to relieve stress. Exercise lowers cortisol and adrenaline levels and releases mood-boosting endorphins, resulting in relaxation and a reduced need for medication.
6.May Reduce Psychiatric Medication Need
Exercise can not only help reduce drug and alcohol cravings, but can also reduce the need for medication to control the mood disorders common in recovering individuals. Reducing the need for anxiolytics and antidepressants can be particularly important for addiction relief, as many of these drugs can also be prone to abuse.
7.May Help Build Trust
People with substance use disorders may experience body image problems as a result or as a direct cause of drug use. Being in shape can be a good way to increase self-confidence, and this can be harmed as a result of drug use. This new found trust can help motivate recovering individuals to stick to other important therapies during recovery.
While exercise is insufficient on its own, it has a strong synergy with traditional addiction healing approaches such as counseling and therapy. For this reason, the vast majority of mainstream and alternative drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs will recommend some form of exercise to complement their approach.
Given the strong evidence, it would be good to try moderate exercise as a way of suppressing appetite, saving individuals with problems with other methods to stay clean.
* joint post