53% of Americans report that they feel better about themselves after exercising, according to the American Psychological Association. As such, exercise has a pretty positive reputation in being an effective way of self-improvement. In the case of those battling with alcoholism or substance addiction, exercise can also empower their recovery. So how exactly can exercise do that?
Alleviating Withdrawal Symptoms
Alcohol and drugs have a profound effect on the body. For example, alcohol tends to keep the body’s system in a depressive or downed state and the brain is pumped with chemicals to keep it awake despite the lethargy. Once the substance is removed, a brain that is used to needing extra chemicals to stay fired up will persist in this hyper state and this is what causes withdrawal symptoms to begin, according to Steven Gans, MD. He goes on to state that exercise can help the alleviation of withdrawal symptoms like anxiety, nausea, and insomnia.
Active Nutrition Guidance
Substance abuse does not just impose its negative effects on the body. Over time, substance abuse introduces negative habits and lifestyles which may include improper nutrition, according to Fred Berger, MD. To obtain proper health and recovery, a person will need the energy to sustain their exercise regimen. This means obtaining the right kind of food and diet to get the proper weight and muscles needed to power through workouts. Exercise can lead to this. For example, taking part in a structured exercise like CrossFit will open doors toward a complementary diet to maximize caloric needs through careful paring of protein, carbohydrates, and fat. In truth, eating any well-balanced diet under the guidance of a dietician will result in a greater opportunity to attain sobriety.
Reduce Substance-Seeking Behavior
Addiction doesn’t simply limit itself to narcotics and alcohol. Anyone who has received a DWI will know that prescription medications count, too. Addiction to doctor-prescribed drugs is a reality for many and can land individuals on the wrong side of the law. To avoid this from happening, it is critical to address substance-seeking behavior. Fortunately, exercise can help with this, too. Those that regularly partake in aerobic exercises are less likely to make use of harmful substances, according to Mark Smith and Wendy Lynch’s study.
Establishing a Supportive Network
Social and peer support is important to the addiction recovery process, according to Dr. Madhukar Trivedi. Exercise opens the opportunity to create and establish supportive networks. Exercising in groups benefits a recovering person’s mental health through positive reinforcement and social affirmation. Having a supportive network lessens the likelihood of a relapse. By having others to share the journey of sobriety and exercise, a recovering person is better encouraged to sustain exercise and avoid mind-altering substances.
Recovering from substance addiction is a never-ending journey that will need constant perseverance. It is good, then, that those struggling to overcome addiction can utilize physical exertion for self-betterment. Exercise remains to be a gift that keeps on giving for those who have the will and discipline to pick it up. It may not be an easy path but it is one that carries both short-term and long-term benefits.