Remember that scene in Legally Blonde where Elle Woods proves her client’s innocence in court? A part of her argument is that exercise makes you happy (and happy people don’t kill their husbands). The movie itself was unrealistic, but she had a solid point!
Exercise therapy is a proven method to help overcome challenges. Multiple journals from the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine (NIMH) prove the link between exercise and addiction recovery.
Simple in nature, it can cure substance addiction. Exercise and addiction recovery may seem like an unlikely pair. Science says otherwise especially for people who use hard drugs. Check out how this form of holistic therapy can promote a healthy lifestyle.
What is Exercise Therapy?
Exercise therapy is the medical practice of using physical activity to rehabilitate the body and mind. People who get injuries use it to get their bodies back to where it once was. The same can be said for exercise and addiction recovery. The difference is the part of the body to focus on: the mind.
It’s a grueling process to recover from addiction. That is why individuals with an addiction need exercise therapy versus a few Zumba classes. Here are some reasons why:
A doctor uses scientific research to craft the right plan
It provides more accountability
Doctors can measure improvement
If an individual gets off track an exercise therapist can help them get back on track
It can be done in a group made for addiction recovery for added support
The task of addiction recovery is difficult on its own. This form of holistic treatment takes the stress off of individuals to work on the path of recovery alone.
What are Examples of Exercise Therapy?
The best part about exercise therapy is that there are so many different kinds. Working out doesn’t need to fit a specific mold or be unenjoyable. It’s the opposite. Exercise therapy is a way to achieve happiness and confidence without drugs or alcohol.
People with a substance abuse disorder can combine multiple activities to have an exercise therapy plan they love. A combination of any of these offer a route away from drug dependence:
Weight lifting/Weight training
Running or jogging
Certain exercises may be better for one person than another. At least 42% of Americans deal with more than one chronic disorder. Weight lifting might not be the choice for a person who has a drug abuse disorder and chronic joint pain. Most can find one that suits them.
Who Can Benefit From Exercise Therapy?
In this article, we choose to talk about exercise therapy from an addiction recovery point of view. It should be noted that this form of treatment can relieve multiple illnesses. Research from NIMH shows that the people who can benefit from exercise therapy the most are those with illicit drug use addiction.
Yet, people who abuse nicotine and alcohol have seen benefits, too. Working out allows people to focus on their mental and physical health. This is a natural approach as opposed to prescribed medication. Individuals with any sort of substance abuse disorders can see the benefit since it distracts them from the issue.
Regular physical activity can relieve the discomfort of depression and anxiety. Also, the symptoms of drug dependence and withdrawal are hard to focus on when a patient puts all their focus into working out.
People who take the path of exercise and addiction recovery prioritize what matters. The moment they start to work out, they take an active approach to recovery. That is a large portion of why so many can benefit from this form of therapy.
Is Exercise Therapy Effective for Addiction Recovery?
Yes, exercise and addiction recovery are scientifically proven to correlate. Exercise therapy is a holistic way to overcome addiction. It helps those with a substance abuse or addiction focus on something other than their mental/physical discomfort. Their mind becomes focused on rehabilitation both physically and mentally.
We believe that the physical challenge can relate to a patient’s journey with addiction recovery. Further research shows additional reasons why.
Endorphins are released when people exercise. It acts almost like a natural drug, producing a euphoric sensation. These hormones send signals to parts of the brain that drugs normally interact with. Drugs such as morphine and other opiates produce these hormones in overdrive. Exercise does the same thing, just to a lesser extent.
Particular hormones make exercise therapy effective:
Serotonin: This is a chemical in the body that acts as a mood stabilizer. Feelings of anger and hopelessness minimize as people engage in physical activity.
Dopamine: These neurotransmitters are associated with positive emotions. It’s also nicknamed the “happy hormone.”
Cortisol: The fight or flight feeling comes from here. As people exercise, this stress hormone depletes.
Endorphins: These increase pleasure and decrease pain. Over time, the sensation of pleasure becomes more intense, while the pain of the physical activity minimizes.
Norepinephrine: A bodily chemical that works with the part of the brain responsible for stress. This depletes as individuals exercise.
These hormones naturally occur within our bodies. Drugs mimic the effects of exercise in terms of how it affects our brains. The body associates the hormones released by both drugs and exercise with positive feelings. Those with a substance abuse issue can use physical activities to mitigate the negative effects of dependence and withdrawal.
Benefits of Exercise Therapy
Physical activity has a flurry of benefits. People can see great results from exercise in general, but those with substance abuse or addiction can benefit the most.
Co-occurring disorders are common among Americans. Data suggests that comorbid conditions are less likely to occur with exercise. Mental illness and substance abuse have a strong association. Exercise therapy provides arguably the best relief because it combats the symptoms of multiple disorders.
Around 9.2 million Americans every year suffer from both mental illness and a substance abuse disorder. This example of a dual diagnosis is a great way to show why exercise therapy is beneficial. It releases and depletes the same hormones that benefit mental health and addiction recovery.
It can help in multiple ways:
Helps with a wide range of mental illnesses (anxiety, depression, and ADHD)
Helps with memory
Resolves low self-esteem issues
Is shown to make individuals happier
Decreases the chance of heart-related disorders
Can make individuals feel more attractive/healthier
Improves sleep habits
Can help people with self-discipline
The benefits above are just a few additional positives to exercise therapy. Also, it’s more cost-effective and can cause fewer dependencies than medicine. Moreover, exercise therapy is a great option. Individuals who want to recover from addiction should consider it.
How to Choose the Right Exercise Therapy
A battle with drug abuse and disorder is hard in its own right. Exercise might seem impossible. Individuals must choose a form of exercise that they enjoy. Yoga might make them want to fall asleep. On the other hand, weight training makes them feel awake and powerful.
It’s all about choosing the path of least resistance. Those who choose this route need to make it easy on themselves. It can be fun and rewarding. Exercise therapy is challenging, just like any other form of therapy. That doesn’t mean it should be a chore.
Each form is best for different people:
Mind/body: Exercises like yoga and tai chi are also known as moving meditation. Mind-body exercises like these are great for people with mental illness. Gentle yoga helps individuals that are mature in age.
Aerobic: Another physical activity that works well for older people. Running, jogging, and swimming are all forms of aerobic exercise. People with physical disabilities, like arthritis, could choose an activity like swimming. This would help with pressure on the joints. Those who want to lose weight should choose an aerobic exercise.
Strength: Focuses on strength is a way to feel powerful. It helps people with self-esteem issues and self-discipline.
Not every exercise is for everybody. If the activity itself seems like an additional chore with no benefit, change it up. Besides, no form of it should cause more issues. A person who chooses weight training might find it hurts them. Something lighter like running can be done instead.
The Importance of Exercise and Addiction Recovery
Addiction recovery has many paths. Sometimes it may overwhelm people who want to get better. They might not know how to start or be able to afford it.
Rock Recovery Center offers exercise therapy as a part of our adventure therapy program. It’s an affordable way to create long-lasting, positive habits. A schedule is necessary to recover from substance addiction. We create structure through physical activity done in the natural beauty of South Florida.
Kayaking with manatees can be a part of exercise and addiction recovery! Contact us now if you or a loved one needs addiction recovery and experience the joy of South Florida.