Photo credit Pixabay
By Adam Cook
“More than 90 Americans die from overdoses each day.” – The Hill
With addiction being the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., researchers from the National Institute on Drug Abuse are continuing the quest to find answers on the best treatment options. These studies, combined with anecdotal reports and patient observations, suggest that incorporating exercise into a holistic treatment plan yields many benefits.
“Physical activity can benefit people with substance use disorders in a variety of ways,” explains Kent Runyon, Vice President of Community Relations at Novus Medical Detox Center. “Not only does it provide an outlet to relieve boredom, stress, anxiety and anger — which lead many to turn to drugs and alcohol in the first place — but it also releases endorphins, which activate the body’s opiate receptors and can create a natural ‘high.’”
So, where to begin? Different physical activity affects your mind and body in unique ways, so it’s important to look at several exercise options, and their specific benefits. Just remember, any exercise will aid in your recovery plan, so get up and get moving.
Yoga – According to neuroscientist Dr. Alex Korb, Ph.D., yoga works with the brain to change habits. “It may sound like magic that posing like a proud warrior or a crow could have such extensive effects, but it's not magic. It's neurobiology. This next statement may sound to you either profound or extremely obvious, but it comes down to this: the things you do and the thoughts you have change the firing patterns and chemical composition of your brain. These changes are often transient, but can be long-lasting, particularly if they entail changing a habit.”
Hiking or Walking – More and more studies are indicating that a walk through Mother Nature’s great outdoors has many mental health benefits. One of the most important for addicts is its ability to control obsessive thinking. A recent study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that spending time in nature decreases obsessive and negative thoughts by a significant margin.
Aerobic Training – Studies show that exercise can reduce anger, which is key to managing your recovery, as anger and addiction are often intertwined. As SwiftRiver states, “whether anger led to your addiction or addiction led to your anger, the two fuel each other in a dangerous cycle.” Aerobic activity such as running, jumping rope, biking or swimming works to get the body’s heart rate up. According to the Harvard Medical School, “regular aerobic exercise will bring remarkable changes to your body, your metabolism, your heart, and your spirits. It has a unique capacity to exhilarate and relax, to provide stimulation and calm, to counter depression and dissipate stress.”
Adding any of these physical activities to your daily routine will work with your brain and body to support your recovery process, but how do you stay committed? One study suggests that by filling out this simple sentence daily, you are two to three times more likely to stick with your routine - During the next week, I will exercise on [DAY] at [TIME OF DAY] at/in [PLACE].
Remember, you’re not alone, and a good fix takes time, patience, and clear goals. Moira Lawler's addiction recovery goal was to run in the Boston Marathon, “I realized that taking care of yourself is about more than just not drinking. It's about using your body to its full potential, through training and eating healthy food…So I started running for the first time ever…I started to see results. Slowly but surely, I felt better about myself.” Seven half marathons, and a full marathon later, she did it! You can, too!