A Look at How Exercising Can Help You Overcome an Addiction
Recent studies show that exercising can aid in addiction recovery. Recovering addicts who exercise are less likely to relapse and are less vulnerable to environmental cues and triggers. The theory behind this phenomenon is that exercising stimulates peptide production in the brain. These peptides regulate and affect different chemical pathways. They do many different things.
By changing the chemical levels in the brain, exercise can alter learned associations between drug-related cues and cravings. As a result, recovering substance abusers are less likely to experience cravings. Even if they do, the intensity of the cravings will be substantially milder. It becomes easier for recovering drug and alcohol abusers to achieve lifelong sobriety.
Researchers suspect that many different peptides are involved in this phenomenon. Some of the main chemical changes include:
- Lower levels of peptides related to or associated with myelin Myelin is a white-colored, fatty sheath that coats the neurons. It takes part in many regulatory pathways. It is also involved in cognitive function and memory. By changing the peptides linked to myelin, recovering drug addicts are less likely to be affected by a re-exposure to drug-related cues.
- Higher levels of hemoglobin-derived peptides. These chemicals regulate different types of cell signaling in the brain.
- Lower levels of actin. Actin is involved with memory and learning functions. It is believed to be involved with drug-seeking behaviors.
Exercise may also protect the brain by normalizing dopamine and serotonin levels. It protects the forebrain from monoaminergic damage.
This area of addiction recovery needs to be researched more thoroughly. There are still a lot of unknowns. With that said, we now have concrete evidence that exercising can aid in the addiction recovery process.
How Peptide Production Regulation Can Affect Your Body and Mind
A huge part of why we act the way we do is due to the chemistry levels in our brain. By regulating and normalizing brain chemistry levels, exercise can have a profound impact on a recovering addict’s body and mind. It can change the way that he or she feels, thinks or behaves.
Previous research has examined the effects of exercise during the addiction recovery process for all types of addictions. These studies unanimously agree that exercising is critical to recovery. Those who exercise will usually have a much easier time getting sober and clean.
Let’s explore some of these other studies in detail to examine how exercise can affect and help recovering substance abusers. These studies highlight just how important it is to incorporate an exercise routine into your treatment plan.
Reduces the Intensity of Cravings or Completely Eliminates Them
Relapse is common among addicts. Studies show that approximately 40% to 60% of addicts treated for a drug addiction or alcoholism will relapse within a year. The main reason why many people relapse is because they experience cravings all of a sudden. They may not know how to handle these cravings, or they may not have a strong enough mindset to withstand them.
Exercising can help either reduce the intensity of cravings or eliminate them completely. Multiple studies looking at different types of addiction have come to the same conclusion.
One research found that exercise could help heavy marijuana users cut their cravings and marijuana use by over 50%. Participants in this study saw results from ten 30-minute sessions over a two-week period. Other studies have seen similar results among cocaine, amphetamine and methamphetamine users.
It’s clear that not a lot of exercise is needed. This means that recovering addicts can make a huge difference in their life without having to make too big of a lifestyle change.
Improves Your Mood and Mindset
Many recovering addicts struggle with a co-occurring disorder, also known as a dual diagnosis. This happens when a person possesses both a substance use disorder (SUD) and a mental health disorder at the same time. The mental health condition could be caused by the addiction. Or, it could have happened independently.
Regardless of how a person manages to develop a co-occurring disorder, it’s important to note that both conditions need to be treated at the same time. Otherwise, they’ll play off of one another.
Exercise can improve a person’s mood. It can also increase self-confidence and improve a person’s self-image. This is extremely helpful for those who are struggling with depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders and mental illnesses.
Exercising accomplishes all of this by restoring the levels of feel-good neurotransmitters in the brain. These chemicals include:
Addiction can result in a loss of these receptors. Exercise can relieve many mental illness symptoms by replenishing important neurotransmitters in the brain. Once again, not a lot of exercise is needed to achieve these results.
Exercises to Try or Incorporate Into Your Treatment Plan
Since exercising is so effective in treating an addiction, recovering addicts should definitely incorporate an exercise routine into their treatment plan. The exercises don’t have to be complex or complicated. If you haven’t exercised in some time, start off with something easy and simple.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you should aim to:
- Participate in muscle-strengthening activities least two times a week
- Engage in 150-minutes of moderate aerobic activity twice a week or 75-minutes of vigorous aerobic activity once a week
The good news is that Colorado is one of the more active states in America. 32.5% of Colorado residents meet the CDC’s recommendations.
If you aren’t exercising regularly, the key is to be consistent. It takes at least 18 days to build a habit. If you keep at it, you’ll eventually get used to exercising on a regular basis. Even after you’ve beat addiction, exercising regularly can do wonders for your health.
Much like with addiction treatments, each addict will need an individualized exercise plan. The plan should be based on their goals and needs. For example, some patients may wish to build muscles. Other patients may want to slim down.
There isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” approach when it comes to exercising. You may find that certain exercises suit you better than others. There are many different types of exercises to choose from. Try out different routines to find out what works best for you.
Hiking and Other Outdoor Activities
Did you know that a mere 15-minute walk can help fight cravings? This is the reason why many recovering alcohol and drug abusers hike or go for walks. There are many beautiful places in Colorado that you can go to.
Some of the best places to go for a walk, a hike or a bike ride include:
- Lookout Mountain near Golden, Colorado. You can get a really decent cardio workout from biking or running up the winding roads of this mountain. The view at the top is absolutely stunning and marvellous.
- White Ranch in Golden. This area can offer 20 miles of trails and 5,224 acres of land. It’s an ideal place to go camping, hiking, biking and horseback riding. Check out the meadows and spend some time admiring the canyons and rock formations.
- La Alma Lincoln Park in Denver. If you’re not much of a hiker, but love short walks around the park, you can’t go wrong with La Alma Lincoln Park. This park also has a calisthenics area, two basketball courts, a baseball diamond and an amphitheater. Gather up some of your recovery buddies to play some basketball or baseball. There’s also a pool and gym equipment at the La Alma Recreation Center.
- Manitou Incline in Manitou Springs. If you’re a fan of hiking, you’ll want to check out this former cable car track. The hike is only one mile, but it’s a 2,000 feet incline in elevation. You should be pretty fit before attempting this trail.
- Garfield Lake Park in Denver. Check out the great view and the extensive outdoor calisthenics gym here.
There are many other options available. Check out some of these great places to exercise outdoors in Colorado. You’ll be sure to find something that floats your boat.
Yoga, Reiki, Tai Chi and More
Dealing with an addiction can be very stressful. Learning relaxation techniques and strategies can help you achieve a calm state of mind. It can also help you avoid relapses and make better judgement calls.
Many alcohol and drug rehab facilities offer holistic treatment options, like yoga, Reiki and Tai Chi. These exercises will stretch out your muscles, so you feel more relaxed. They’ll help you learn how to control your feelings and thoughts, and will also help you build a stronger core. You’ll also learn how to meditate and reflect on your behaviors.
Yoga, in particular, is one of the most commonly chosen exercises. It’s easy for beginners to start off with these exercises. It’s possible to start off by practicing some of the more simple moves before moving onto more complex ones.
3 Yoga Poses to Try When in Addiction Recovery
To begin your transformation in addiction recovery, you can start off by practicing some simple yoga moves. These moves will alleviate stress and anxiety. They’ll also help you calm your mind.
The Sage Twist is a very popular yoga pose. Not only is it fairly simple, but it’s believed to help detoxify negative energy within the organs and spine. When performing the Sage Twist, you’ll be compressing and twisting your internal organs. This will enhance stimulation of the nervous system. It will also reduce tension along your spine, and help calm your mind.
Stretch out your shoulders, chest and thoracic spine with the Fish Pose. This yoga pose is also known as the “destroyer of all diseases”. It’s believed to help relieve stress and anxiety.
Go through a guided meditation with a basic breathing exercise known as the Spinal Breathing Pranayama. This exercise will connect your mind with your body. It’ll help you relax, and will also clear your mind of all negative thoughts. You are encouraged to take this opportunity to focus on the moment. This is a good yoga pose to start and end with.
Strength-Training Exercises at the Gym
If you have a gym membership or like to exercise indoors, you should definitely try incorporating some strength-training exercises into your treatment plan. You don’t have to start off lifting huge dumbbells or weights. Instead, it would be best if you started off with lighter weights.
There are many different simple exercises that you can try. Some of these exercises include:
- Assisted lunges or regular lunges
- Ball squats
- Bicep curls
- Chest presses
- Hip abductions
- Modified push ups
- Overhead presses
- Tricep extensions
Check out this 30-Day Quick-Start Exercise Guide for Beginners if you don’t know where to start. Follow the plan and you should see yourself getting healthier and more fit. As you feel stronger, you can attempt to tackle more complicated exercises. You can also start to add heavier weights to your routine.
We Incorporate Exercise Routines and Active Therapy in Our Treatment Programs
Exercising can play a vital role in the addiction recovery process. Here, at AspenRidge North, we recognize the role that exercise plays. As a result, all of our treatment plans come with a comprehensive exercise plan as well. We encourage all patients to exercise. After all, a healthy body will lead to a healthy mind.
Although exercise can play an important role in the addiction recovery process, you’ll also need an individualized treatment plan regardless of the type of addiction treatment you choose. This includes medical detox, behavioral therapy, counseling, and more. We’ll help you design a feasible and effective plan that utilizes evidence-based treatment modalities and approaches. You’ll have everything you need for a successful recovery.
Our goal is to help you achieve lifelong sobriety. We know just how big of an impact addiction can have on your life, as well as the lives of those around you. We’re here to help you break free from addiction.
Contact us for more information. Our team is available all hours of the day to answer any questions that you might have. We can assess your situation, help you find the resources you need and match you with a suitable treatment program.