Workouts Can Facilitate Addiction Recovery

by Susan Treadway, Guest Blogger

Photo courtesy Unsplash

Addiction is a long, steep road, but some people suffering from substance use disorders have identified one way to help support the process. By incorporating exercise, addiction recovery can become more natural. Some even attest that their fitness routines have supplanted their addiction – effectively curing them of their desires to use substances.

How exercise affects the body

Part of the reason for exercise’s ability to change behaviors in addicts is how it changes us physically. When we are fit, we are more mindful of how we treat our bodies. Those who attain workout goals are less likely to dash physical progress through relapse.

Fitness also occupies time. Preparing for the gym, going to work out, showering, and rushing to work or back home all occupy big chunks of our schedules. For some, these are reasons to abandon exercise, but when the fitness bug bites, it’s equally difficult to give up.

Exercise can also work as a “good” infection. Take yoga for example. Yoga is less of a workout than a lifestyle. The practice of yoga spreads to other areas of one’s life, into diet, mindfulness and mental health.

How exercise affects the mind

Speaking of mental health, exercise has been found to target chemicals in the brain that are responsible for pain relief, joy and level-headedness. Exercise’s ability to provide us with a boost of adrenaline and a shot of happy feelings is markedly similar to how drugs and alcohol can make us feel. For this reason, exercise can replace substance abuse.

Several former addicts profess that exercise saved them from their addiction. Not that exercise helped them manage their addiction – that they have cured their substance abuse disease. While mainstream addiction specialists would scoff at that suggestion, some believe that sustained healthy life change can rewire our brains and put us on a path where drugs and alcohol have no place.

How to attain sustained overall health

Anyone who has tried to use the gym as a way to lose weight and failed might be able to quickly point out a hole in the exercise as recovery solution idea. Many people embark on a fitness regimen only to get bored or burned out in the process. The 10 pounds they lose for their friend’s wedding comes back during the holidays. Their cholesterol levels inch back up, they let their gym membership lapse, and they fall out of shape until maybe they become motivated at a later time. Possibly the desire to get healthy comes back for swimsuit season or another wedding.

Addiction doesn’t work that way. You cannot dip in an out of sobriety and consider it a success. The risks of relapse are too high. Substances once almost ruined your life, so to risk going back to that life is unhealthy.

The key, then, is to identify some way to embrace healthy living for the rest of your life. Exercise provides the happy chemicals and fills schedules with positive activities, but it’s our willpower and strength that keep us going. Experts suggest looking for enjoyable exercise regimens that have a low risk of injury.

When you find an exercise you love, such as playing basketball, for example, you can fold it into your life. The same applies to healthy eating and other positive decisions. The goal is not to lose 10 pounds or stay clean for 30 days; it is to change your life.

Exercise can help you accomplish this life change. Start small but strive to make healthy living a part of you – of your fabric – and you won’t be able to walk away.

You can learn more about Susan Treadway and holistic rehab therapies by visiting her website at

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