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Sweating it Out: Exercise and Addiction Recovery

by Jeffrey Juergens ❘  

“Working Out” and Into Sobriety

Addiction impacts people from every walk of life and no one’s experience will be the same.

Someone questioning whether their marijuana use is more than a recreational habit will approach recovery differently than someone struggling with long-term painkiller addiction.

Addiction treatment comes in many forms, as well.

Popular culture paints drug rehab as hospital beds, IV drips and group counseling sessions. These resources are present in many treatment plans. However, addiction recovery can be more…naturale, too.

Physical activity and exercise give your recovery a lively change. Whether you’re walking the road toward sobriety or preparing for that first step, drug addiction treatment can be as close as your own body and as simple as walking outside.

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Exercise: a Natural Rush

Many recovery techniques work to restore the brain’s balance of “happiness-inducing” chemicals like dopamine — a balance that drug and alcohol abuse disrupts.

Physical activity boosts the presence of these chemicals, too. Exercising douses the brain with dopamine, so we exercise more often to release more of it. Our fitness rises, and our mood rises, too.

But in recovering addicts, there’s an added benefit.

Studies show that exercise and physical activity can actually help return dopamine levels to pre-abuse heights.

The act of practicing an exercise routine — and committing to completing some physical activity every week — also keeps the mind off using drugs.

If you think these benefits sound similar to those of more traditional treatment methods, you aren’t the only one. Drug rehab centers across the country understand how physical exercise can help addicts recover. Many treatment programs include exercise in their recovery plans for this reason.

Popular Exercises for Addiction Recovery

Like addiction treatment therapies, different exercises affect the mind and body differently.

Yoga

Many drug treatment centers unroll yoga mats as part of their recovery programs. It’s easy to see why: limbering up can have numerous mental and physical health benefits. More physically demanding “power yoga” focuses on strengthening the body, which releases dopamine in the brain. Less intense “restorative” yoga plunges yogiis into medication, unpacking anxiety and stress that can trigger relapse.

Hiking/Walking

Enjoying the Great Outdoors can boost dopamine levels during addiction treatment. Studies show that a simple 15-minute walk can help stave off cravings when they arise. A brisk stroll outside can also boost overall brain function by supporting new brain cell growth.

Strength Training

Cardio exercises like walking and running get most of the attention, but lifting a few weights also has recovery benefits. Many recovering addicts suffer from insomnia, as they are unable to sleep without using. Weight training or bodyweight exercises like push-ups can help reboot the body’s sleep cycle over time.

Team Sports

Throwing the pigskin or shooting some hoops with like-minded friends provides more than a good workout. The camaraderie built playing casual team games can be a crucial piece to long-term recovery. Forming new relationships that don’t revolve around drinking or using drugs helps recovering addicts feel integrated back into society.

Some treatment centers give recovering addicts even more fitness options. Obstacle courses, rock climbing walls and rope courses are available at drug rehabs across the country. Completing these physical challenges can boost self-confidence during recovery, all while releasing dopamine in the brain. The memories made during these exercise therapies can be strong reminders that you’re capable of overcoming any literal or figurative hurdle.

Drug addiction recovery equips you with the skills to stay sober after treatment ends. Those tools might include writing exercises or self-help therapies. You might also bring home a new yoga pose or workout program and a healthier body and mind.

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