It is well known that exercise has many health benefits, both physical and mental. In addition, physical exercise serves as a foothold to overcome many problems, including addiction problems. And this is not a hypothesis or an observed issue, but rather research demonstrates it.
Most addiction treatments involve some form of psychotherapy or counseling, and focus on helping the addicted person discover why they continue their addictive behaviors despite the problems that arise as a result. They also suggest more effective ways to manage the feelings that underlie addictive behaviors.
However, while these treatment approaches are helpful for many people with addictions, some feel that they need an approach that also helps with the physical as opposed to the mental or emotional aspects of addiction. Many find that exercise helps curb cravings .
Over the years, exercise has been recognized as a self- help tool for people recovering from addictions as a support for recovery. However, until recently we did not know the full value of this support . Let’s see below how physical exercise helps to overcome an addiction.
Physical exercise helps to overcome an addiction
When a person tries to overcome addiction, the mind and body crave the substance that produces endorphins in the brain and creates the feeling of being high. Add to this the stress of everyday life and cravings, and the mix can reach unbearable levels.
Vigorous exercise also releases endorphins , which make you feel the same euphoric feeling that accompanies a chemical or other addictive substance.
Although it may be less intense than what you experience with drugs, alcohol, or whatever gets you hooked, the effects of working out can be pleasurable both mentally and physically. In fact, a study of patients receiving substance abuse treatment showed that exercise can lead to a sense of accomplishment and increased confidence in staying sober.
On the other hand, it’s normal for a person to feel anxious or depressed when withdrawing, but exercise can promote a healthy, addiction-free life . In this sense, it has been shown that exercise:
- Reduces cravings and substance use.
- It decreases the effectiveness of drugs, decreasing susceptibility to use and abuse.
- Restores brain cells damaged by heavy drug abuse.
- It produces “neurological rewards” and increases self-esteem.
- Reduces anxiety and stress.
- Promotes better sleep.
- Improve thinking and provide a positive outlook.
- It fills a void, offering structure and routine.
- It serves as a constructive coping mechanism.
Why physical exercise helps to overcome an addiction?
That physical exercise has such a significant effect on the body and mind of someone dealing with addiction has a lot to do with the benefits exercise has for everyone. This is because physical exercise helps to lose and manage weight loss, helps to have more energy and muscle strength, improves circulation, improves self-image and mood, reduces depression and anxiety, and increases mental acuity, among other benefits.
A study published by the Scandinavian Journal of Public Health supports this idea. That study found that people who incorporated exercise into their rehabilitation programs reported lower medication intake and better quality of life. Participants said they felt more energetic, could breathe easier, and felt better about their appearance.
Exercise to overcome withdrawal
Withdrawal is an unpleasant experience that occurs when you stop using an addictive substance , such as alcohol or drugs, or an addictive behavior, such as gambling, compulsive sex, or overeating.
Withdrawal symptoms vary in intensity and in the symptoms experienced, depending on the individual and what they are withdrawing from. Common to all withdrawal syndromes , however, is the craving for more of the substance or behavior , as well as the feeling of relief when the substance is used or the behavior being withdrawn occurs.
Feelings of depression or hopelessness, anxiety or lethargy, irritability or anger, digestive problems, and nervous system symptoms such as sweating, dry or watery mouth, headaches, and muscle tension are common during withdrawal.
Exercise has repeatedly been found to reduce stress, anxiety , and depression . As these are the main withdrawal symptoms, experts are increasingly suggesting that exercise can alleviate withdrawal symptoms.