Getting Fit Can Be The Most Valuable Weapon Against Addiction


When people try to imagine what an addict looks like, the vision that comes to mind is often someone that is erratic and gaunt. Addicts, at their worst, tend to be in poor health. Their addictions drive them to focus on just that need, often to the detriment of their mental and physical health. Depending on their drug or drink of choice, there is a myriad of symptoms that addicts can experience.

As we consider fitness and addiction problems, it is not just about restoring physical health, it is also about preventing relapse. Relapses occur in about 40-60% of cases, making it a big problem in rehabilitation efforts. The combination of medication and behavioral therapy is typically used to treat addiction.

These rehabilitation treatments are highly effective and easy to stick to when confined to a facility, but more difficult when out on your own. One of the most recommended habits that addicts are encouraged to take part in to sustain and strengthen their recovery is exercise. There are multiple benefits derived from engaging in fitness activities.

Why Exercise Works

Addiction can be hard to beat because of the ‘high’ that is achieved when addicts indulge. The euphoric feeling achieved is desperately craved for and leads to poor decision making to achieve it. Many exercises result in a rush of endorphins that gives a similar but milder ‘high’. This enjoyable sensation can help compensate for the lack of the abused substance and reduce cravings.

Regular exercise helps to improve certain bodily functions such as circulation. The fitter your body is the better it is able to absorb and process medications used for detoxification and treatment. It also helps to lower that risk of some health problems linked to substance abuse and unhealthy habits.  Note that this is best achieved when coupled with a healthy diet.

The release of feel-good hormones when working out is also a great stress reliever. For many addicts, stress and anxiety is the reason they wound up easily indulging. When they are more relaxed, they experience a boost in self-esteem and enjoy better sleep. Another upside to all this is that it makes it easier to hold down a job. When you are well rested and can focus at work, resuming a normal work life becomes a real possibility.

Another benefit of exercise is the ability to manage weight. Many substances that people abuse cause them to gain or lose a lot of weight. Exercising helps in achieving and maintaining weight goals. When you reach a suitable weight, it also reduces the risk of health problems associated with being under or overweight.

While just about any form of exercise can provide most of these benefits, there are some that stand out as being particularly beneficial to those with addiction problems.

Best Fitness Activities For Addicts

1. Running

Running is the top sporting activity in which people report experiencing the release of endorphins. In fact, it is called a ‘runner’s high’. Enjoying running in the outdoors is said to be highly therapeutic thanks to the changing scenery that appeals to mental health. The greater challenge of varied terrain also helps improve fitness, while the better exposure and absorption of vitamin D from sunlight boosts alertness and aids in weight loss. 

Another great aspect of running is that in many cities and towns, there are chances to join running clubs. Many of these clubs are tailored towards supporting addicts in recovery. They also offer opportunities to participate in sponsorship or mentorship. Being part of a group that understands your challenges and supports your efforts is great for recovery. They can help by listening to you, offering advice and keeping you accountable.

2. Swimming

This is a great alternative for those unable to keep up with the demands of high impact exercises like running. Swimming, while aerobic, is gentle on the joints. Older and overweight people find this a less stressful fitness activity. It is a great all-round fitness activity that is highly effective in weight loss. Many also enjoy the feeling of buoyancy that comes from floating in the water. It is relaxing and a good stress reliever. This effect makes it easy for many to make it an integral part of their fitness routine.

Swimming may also help reduce the intensity of morphine dependency. According to a study done on rats, swimming may help reduce anxiety and depression in addicts, helping to curtail cravings. The focus required to keep a constant rhythm of strokes and the quietness is another mentally calming facet of the exercise.

3. Yoga

As already mentioned, stress, anxiety, and depression can be strong triggers for addicts. Activities that boost mental health, can also be useful in supporting addiction recovery. Yoga is not just great for strengthening and toning of the body, it includes the element of meditation. Arriving at a state of focus and shedding all other concerns can be helpful in calming the mind. This mental relief can eventually extend beyond yoga sessions and make for a more stable mental condition.

While there are many places you can join a yoga class, you also have the option of trying it out solo. There are many online tutorials for beginner to expert level poses that can be helpful. Yoga can also help in encouraging healthy sleep. Those that suffer insomnia can focus on muscle relaxing poses that, should in time, make it easier to achieve deep and long sleep cycles.

4. Team Sports

You do not have to be a professional athlete to enjoy team sports. Many neighborhoods have local teams for sports like basketball, soccer, ice hockey and baseball. Some teams do engage in competitions while others are just about having a physical outlet and fun. Working up a good sweat is great for relieving stress and improving your overall fitness. It is also a great opportunity for those that suffered loss of social ties due to their addiction to make new friends. A good team will also hold you accountable, encouraging consistent attendance and support.

As you get into the habit of exercising on a regular basis, be aware of the risk of injury. This is particularly important with high impact exercises. If you do suffer an injury that requires the use of pain relievers and steroids to recover, discuss your options with your doctor. Opt for pain management treatments that will have the least impact on your recovery, and talk to your sponsor or counselor.


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