Various experts assert that exercise should be a part of substance abuse treatment. While physical exercise cannot be the only treatment for substance use disorders, when it’s combined with other forms of treatment including medication-assisted treatment, recovery is more effective.
Here are some of the benefits of exercise in addiction recovery.
1. Reduces Craving for Drugs
Exercise helps reduce the craving for smoking, and it also reduces the urge to use other drugs. For instance, if people who need to quit smoking are given a nicotine replacement alone, it usually makes them gain weight because their appetite suddenly increases.
In a study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information on the use of aerobic exercise as an adjunct treatment for people with substance use disorder, those who participated in the exercise had a significant increase in the number of days abstinent after participating in moderate-intensity aerobic workouts for 12 weeks.
2. Improves and Stabilizes Mood
Mood swings take place during the withdrawal or recovery process. It’s possible for a patient to feel great in the present and then start feeling depressed and disheartened a few minutes later. This change usually occurs because the body is getting used to functioning without drugs or alcohol.
Regular exercise can improve mood because it increases the secretion of endorphins. These endorphins provide positive feelings of euphoria and happiness. The exercise doesn’t even have to be long to have a positive effect on mood — just 30 minutes per day is adequate for the desired effect.
3. Raises Energy Levels
Exercise increases the body’s capacity to release the energy required for daily activities. Regular exercise increases the amount of oxygen and nutrients that flow to the muscles because as you exercise, blood moves faster through the heart. Also, with regular exercise, the muscles become stronger and the entire body’s fitness increases. With higher energy levels comes more fuel to perform daily tasks, an increased ability to resist the urge to use drugs and more strength to rebuild relationships.
4. Enhances Sleep Quality
In the early stages of recovery, people usually find it difficult to sleep soundly throughout the night. Exercise can help you overcome common problems encountered during sleep, including:
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Trouble staying asleep for long
- Feeling sluggish and sleeping during the day
Regular exercise boosts sleep quality and will allow you to stay asleep for a longer time. A short period of exercise before going to bed will cause your body to cool at a faster rate, making it easier for you to fall asleep.
5. Reduces Stress
Any activity that increases the heart rate can reduce stress, which is crucial for recovering individuals because withdrawing from drugs or alcohol can heighten stress. During exercise, some of the chemicals released by the brain — including the feel-good endorphins — can help you deal with stress.
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