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Fit and Free: How Exercise Can Help Recovering Addicts
The use of exercise to help treat addiction is nothing new. Ayurveda texts, written 5000 years ago, discuss treating addiction with yoga, something I have found extremely helpful in my own life. Of course, yoga is just one type of exercise. Anything that gets your body up and moving is going to be helpful.
There are three ways that exercise can help an addict in recovery:
- It serves as an activity to replace the physical act of taking the drug.
- Regularly exercising is linked to reduced stress levels and a reduction in stress-related cravings.
- During exercise, endorphins are released that create a natural high that can replace the drug-induced one.
When someone is struggling with addiction, keeping their mind off of using is one of the most important goals. A regular exercise plan can be used to fill part of the daily gap where drug use would have formerly occurred. A daily routine is one of the best ways to get started. A regular routine releases chemicals into the body that promote healing and stress relief. Since the addict has most likely been avoiding this type of behavior, it may take a while before these effects are noticeable. Tawill, however, help to reduce cravings associated with the stresses of everyday life.
A vigorous exercise plan will release a high level of endorphins into the bloodstream. This mimics the chemical signature of the drug-induced state. Instead of craving drugs, the addict will start to want to exercise instead, replacing an unhealthy addiction with a healthy obsession. In addition to the three ways that exercise can help an addict in recovery, there is a social aspect to working out at a gym that adds another level of support to the recovery process. It allows the opportunity to add friends that have a common workout interest. This will make it even more exciting to go back to the gym the next time to interact with the new group.
Working out and getting in shape is a good way to build self-esteem, something that is often lacking in the world of the addict. Depression and damaging thoughts that may have been suppressed by drug use will be equally suppressed by positive thinking and action. I know from experience that the hardest part of working out is the first week. If you are helping an addict start a workout routine, it is essential that you stay with them for that first week and maybe a few weeks beyond. The positive effects of exercise will be there right away, but the addict may not recognize them for several weeks. You have to be there for support. And if you can get into a positive routine, it will probably do you a bit of good as well. It could even turn into a morning yoga session and an after-work workout at the gym. This double exercise will calm both the body and mind and add extra structure to the recovering addict’s day.