When someone has been struggling with dependence or addiction, they have most probably damaged not only their psyche but their physical health as well. One of the characteristics of addiction is that people become so preoccupied with substance abuse that they neglect all other areas of their lives including their own wellbeing. For this reason, a physical fitness program as part of addiction treatment can be extremely beneficial in promoting long-term recovery.
There are four main benefits of physical exercise as part of addiction treatment as follows:
- Physical Exercise Acts As Stress Relief
Research has shown that exercise is very effective in relieving physical and psychological stress. This is because moving the body alleviates the tension that builds up when someone is sitting at a desk with poor posture or is having a stressful interaction with a colleague. Taking time out to take a brisk walk for even ten minutes can shift focus from a stressful situation and restore greater wellbeing. Research has also shown exercise for opiate withdrawal to be extremely effective in reducing stressful withdrawal symptoms.
- Exercise Positively Alters the Brain’s Chemistry
Physical activity promotes the body’s release of endorphins which creates a natural high. When someone abuses alcohol or drugs they influence the body to release endorphins in the same way as exercise. Therefore using exercise to combat addiction has been shown to be very effective, particularly as it re-educates the body to regulate brain activity in natural and healthy ways. For someone who has been in the grips of addiction, finding another “safe” path towards feeling great is invaluable for preventing relapse in recovery.
- Exercise Is Like “Meditation in Motion”
Exercise works in a very similar way to mindfulness practices like meditation as it encourages someone to focus on the physical to get very similar benefits. When engaged in any kind of fitness activity, it is always important to focus on the movements involved to ensure its being done correctly. This requires someone to focus on different parts of the body in isolation which is exactly the same technique used to achieve a meditative state. This is the main reason however grueling a workout has been, people generally leave them feeling invigorated, rejuvenated and extremely positive. It is these positive feelings that are important as motivation to remain abstinent in recovery.
- Exercise Promotes an Optimistic Outlook
When someone has been used to abusing substances, their bodies also get accustomed to the effects. For this reason, many people neglect their physical health in the pursuit of drugs or alcohol which becomes the center of their world while they are addicted. Nearly all substances have a negative effect on a person’s thought processes and behaviors and it is not unusual for someone with addiction illness to feel completely hopeless about the future. Conversely, exercise has been shown to have significant physical and mental health benefits.
By slowly introducing physical exercise into the daily routine, recovering addicts are able to witness significant changes in themselves as their view of the world becomes more optimistic. Because exercising increases self-confidence, it creates a feeling of well-being that promotes a much healthier and positive outlook on life. When someone embarks on a physical fitness program, they generally set themselves goals and as they are achieved, they are further motivated to continue with their healthy lifestyle. Exercise is a very positive activity that reinforces the goal of sobriety by making it easily attainable for all types of people.
Good Physical Health Promotes Better Mental Health
There are many reasons why physical exercise is a strong factor in determining long-term recovery. In addition to the four principal reasons we’ve mentioned above, exercise also contributes to improving sleep patterns, increasing focus at work or school and even eliminating stress. Another area of improvement people who regularly exercise will see is an improvement in their physique as they become more toned over time. This can be a significant boost to self-confidence but is also valuable in that it allows recovering addicts to see their personal fitness goal is reached. For someone who has successfully combatted addiction illness, this provides them with a feeling of control over their lives which was once lost to drugs or alcohol.