National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 21.5 million American adults (aged 12 and older) battled a substance use disorder in 2014. If you follow Hollywood gossip, you have undoubtedly heard about Demi Lovato’s recent overdose and her continuous struggle for sobriety. Can a few laps around the block actually solve your addiction? No, but a regular exercise program might help. Exercise is increasingly becoming a component of many drug treatment programs and has proven effective, when combined with cognitive-behavioral therapy. Exercise may exert beneficial effects by addressing psychosocial and physiological needs that drug replacement alone does not, by reducing negative feelings and stress, and by helping prevent weight gain following cessation. Bradford Health Services writes, “Many who abuse drugs or alcohol neglect important components of daily health, wreaking havoc on both emotional and physical well-being. It is important to repair the psychological and physical damage of chemical dependency as well as the damaged mind-body connection. Exercise in chemical dependency treatment serves many purposes, but there are some primary benefits one can get from exercise during substance abuse treatment and recovery.” According to Bradford Health Services, exercise can helps addiction by:
- Relieving stress. Exercise has been shown to alleviate both physical and psychological stress. Moving your body alleviates this tension, and allows you to get rid of any negative emotions you have been keeping in. Focused exercise uses both physical and emotional energy, that might otherwise find unhealthy ways of escaping.
- Changing your brain chemistry. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins which create a natural high. These are the same endorphins your body released while you abused substances.
- “Meditation in motion.” The Mayo Clinic has described exercise as “meditation in motion,” meaning by concentrating on the physical we can experience the psychological and emotional benefits of meditation. Through movement, we can refocus our thoughts on our own well-being and forget, at least briefly, all that is going on in our lives. You may leave your work-out with a clearer mind, feeling more rejuvenated and optimistic. Finding this clarity within chaos can make recovery much more manageable.
- Improving your outlook. Those who exercise regularly report increased feelings of self-confidence and optimism and reduced feelings of depression and anxiety. This is in part has to do with the body regulating and calibrating itself during exercise, but it also has to do with feelings of accomplishment, pride, and self worth as you see your body transform and your goals reached.