In addition to support and rehabilitation, some theories point to a regimen of exercise to help with the transition to recovery. One study out of the University of Arizona suggests that exercise is at the core of our biology. What’s more, because it works in conjunction with the brain’s “reward” system, a regimented fitness program could prove to have positive impacts for recovering addicts. Healing the body may actually help heal the mind.
Healing The Body
Alcohol abuse and drug addictions can leave a destructive path in their wake. From financial costs to emotional tolls, there isn’t much in an addict’s life that isn’t impacted by the disease of addiction. Abstinence, while necessary for health and lasting sobriety, can be difficult without the proper foundation and tools in place.
This is your brain on exercise
In an NPR article, University of Arizona anthropologist David Raichlen explains that our evolution as humans resulted in a sort of biological “wiring” that rewards us when we do exercises like running. As he puts it, humans are “wired to run, meaning that [our] brains…have been sort of rewired from an evolutionary sense to encourage these running and high aerobic activity behaviors.” In other words, the act of exercising is built into our human DNA.
After periods of aerobic exercise, human bodies produce endocannabinoids, a neurological response in the brain that essentially tells the body “this feels good, keep doing it.” It’s the body’s own reward system – a metaphorical gold star for a job well done. Studies also show that exercise enhances the brain’s ability to handle stress. As an article in the Huffington Post explains: “…gelanin (a chemical found in the brain during exercise) seems to diminish certain stress-related cravings.”
So what does is it all mean in terms of addiction recovery?
With addiction, the scientific consensus is that the pleasure process – similar to that of the endocannabinoid release – is “hijacked,” and ultimately leads to compulsive behavior. When addicts in recovery begin their abstinence, the body and mind will notice the lack of chemical pleasure. This can lead to certain discomforts during the rehabilitation process, including depression and an inhibited ability to cope with stress. This is where healing the body and mind through exercising can help.
Exercise can stimulate the pleasure center of the brain and help it deal with stressors. Because of this, it’s logical to conclude that an exercise regimen can do both the mind and body a great deal of good when it comes to addiction recovery.
If you or someone you love is dealing with the effects of addiction, don’t wait to get to help. Whether you’re ready to start incorporating a fitness program to your recovery plan, or are taking the first steps toward overcoming addiction, The Watershed is here 24/7 and ready to take your call. Contact us today: 1-800-861-1768.