(Natural News) The addiction to substances, such as alcohol or drugs, can severely and negatively impact one’s life. It is often difficult to overcome these addictions. There are therapies that can help resolve such addictions, but among the most effective of these coping strategies is regular exercise.
Physical activity can provide multiple health benefits to the body. Other treatments for addiction, such as talk therapy or counseling, while helpful on their own, often lack the health benefits that exercise provides. Most of these treatments focus on trying to figure out what is the root cause of the addiction and why these people continue to engage in their addictive behaviors. They can help address the mental and emotional aspects of addiction, but often not the physical ones. These treatments are most helpful in resolving addiction problems, but they can be further supplemented by regular exercise. (Related: Study: Commitment and self-reliance prove to be the key to recovery from addiction.)
Reasons why exercise is a helpful coping therapy for addiction
To cope with addiction, you should have an outlet that you can pour your energy into. Exercise is one such outlet that allows you to take better care of yourself. It is something that has a tangible and physical means of measuring progress. Here are some of the ways regular exercise can benefit you during addiction recovery:
- Helps in managing cravings. Exercise can often serve as a distraction to help you get through your cravings. It provides your mind and body with “something to do.” By diverting your attention to something else, exercise allows you to feel the pull of your addiction cravings less keenly than you otherwise would if you were idle.
- Brings a sense of accomplishment. Succumbing to addiction can often feel like you’ve hit rock-bottom. Since exercise provides you with something to do, once you’ve done it, you can take pride in the fact that you’ve accomplished a worthwhile task that you put your own effort into.
- Brings a sense of joy. Your brain maintains a constant balance of “happiness-inducing” chemicals. This balance can easily be disrupted by addiction to drugs or alcohol. Exercise creates a safe and natural high due to the release of neurotransmitters or endorphins in the brain to restore its balance. Exercise can also bring genuine happiness to people. Some people who have previously lived sedentary lifestyles can suddenly find a love for exercise once they take the opportunity to start.
- Helps reduce stress. Stress or anxiety can often heighten one’s desire to return to addiction or trigger a relapse. Exercise can help prevent a relapse by releasing tension and reducing stress. Gentle forms of exercise such as yoga and tai chi can serve as a form of meditation. High-intensity workouts, such as running, can allow you to forget the minor irritations of your daily life and make you focus only on your own movements. However, this may only work if you exercise of your free will. Compulsory or forced exercise might lead to an even worse relapse than before.
- Helps reduce withdrawal symptoms. If you suddenly stop using substances that you have been taking for a long time, you may experience withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms may include feelings of depression or despair, irritability or anger, and lethargy. More physical signs may include digestive problems, nervous system problems, sweating, having a dry or watery mouth, headaches, and muscle tension. Regular exercise can help reduce or alleviate these common withdrawal symptoms. It can also help to improve your mood.