Research suggests that adding exercise to a drug and alcohol recovery program might be an effective way to treat addiction. And while studies have focused on how exercise aids in drug and alcohol rehab, people addicted to cigarettes, coffee and food, among other vices, can also benefit from regular workouts.
Here are some findings on the effects of exercise on addiction recovery:
Exercise combats cravings and depression
When addicts are trying to recover from their addiction, their body and mind crave the endorphins that cause that “high” feeling. Everyday stress can also increase cravings.
It is also common for people to experience depression during drug and alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
According to various studies, exercise causes endorphins to be released into the body along with endocannabinoids, which of both produce a natural high and therefore can help an addict cope better in their recovery, decreasing cravings and aiding with depression.
Exercise can reduce stress
A chemical present in the brain during exercise diminishes certain cravings that are stress-related. Long-term exercise can help decrease the intensity of cravings and may even diminish an addict’s drug and alcohol seeking behaviors, while also helping them to maintain a healthy weight.
Exercise as an alternative
Scientists wanted to take a closer look how exercise affected addictions so they used rats and observed them working out. The rats were put in cages with exercise wheels and were injected with drugs such as nicotine, alcohol, amphetamines and morphine. The exercising rats tapped the drug dispenser much less often than their sedentary counterparts. This led researchers to conclude that it might be that the exercise became an alternative to drugs and alcohol, or when the exercise endorphins kicked in, the workout may have helped treatment.
While exercise itself isn’t an addiction cure, it may be just be the distraction addicts need to help them take the focus off their cravings.