Addiction recovery is a long and arduous task that may be assisted with an exercise regimen when incorporated within the rehab program. Recovering from any sort of addiction is a challenge for many reasons and exercise can assist in addressing all of these challenges in some form. Some of the challenges that rehab patients experience are:
- Coming up with new ways to cope
- Addressing the stressor(s) that caused the addiction in the first place
- Relationships that have been damaged and may need to be severed or rebuilt
- The chance of relapse
- Finding purpose in life
- If in one of many in-patient rehab programs boredom
There are three positive benefits of exercise during rehab programs that can assist with the previously mentioned challenges and they are:
- Relieves and reduces stress
- Improves one’s outlook
- Improves brain chemistry
Exercise relieves and reduces a persons’ stress, by letting them work through their aggression, anger, and depression in a healthy way. While exercising in rehab programs the addict can meditate on how they got to where they are as well as on the good things in their life. During this meditation, they can work on refocusing their energy to healthy way of dealing with their stressors. Also, by reducing stress, the addict will see an overall improvement of body functions as it heals. Exercise assists in the lowering of blood pressure, and improving overall health of the body.
When exercising during rehab the addict will benefit greatly by improving their outlook on their life. Exercise provides the self-confidence and optimism to a person who has felt as if they were the lowest they could ever be. The simple act of setting an exercise task and then performing that task goes a long way toward boosting a persons’ self-confidence. As one becomes more self-confident, their optimism that they can get clean increases. Exercise also helps increase the addicts’ sense of accomplishment, which adds to their pride and their self-worth. Increasing the feeling of self-worth has a huge impact on the success of a patient not relapsing.
Exercise improves an addicts’ brain chemistry by increasing the dopamine production. Dopamine is the pleasure transmitter chemical in the brain and production is limited during addiction. When a person exercises, the production dopamine is more prevalent, thus providing a sense of feeling good, much like a high from drugs or the mellow feeling from alcohol, and the addict will want to recreate that feeling on a regular basis. Exercise also helps ease depression and anxiety by sending out endorphins that give us a sense of happiness and accomplishment.
The type of exercise will give varying and yet similar results. Yoga has great health benefits as well as allowing the person to meditate and release their worries. It will allow the addict the opportunity to calm their mind and release their anxiety. Running’s health benefits include the releasing of endorphins and giving the addict a natural high. It also gets the heart rate up and increase bone density with the pounding of the pavement. Other beneficial exercises include swimming, dancing and hiking. All exercise presents an addict the opportunity to get out of their own head for a period of time that will promote the healing process and help them to become stronger people, both physically, mentally and emotionally.