Using Exercise for Addiction Recovery

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Ever consider that your physical activity level may have an influence on your addiction? You probably didn’t. But, it does. Using exercise for addiction recovery is an important element of the most successful substance abuse treatment programs, and it may even help a person avoid relapse.

Benefits to the Mind

Exercise provides its own mood-enhancing effects to the human brain that can actually reduce one’s desire to use other mind-altering substances. In a review of literature prepared by Smith and Lynch (2012), various epidemiological studies revealed that self-administration of cocaine, amphetamine, and methamphetamine among animals was decreased when the animals had access to some form of physical activity.

These results were affirmed in all phases of substance abuse, from early experimentation to relapse. Scientists feel that humans who regularly exercise are not only advancing their minds and bodies but also reducing their likelihood of developing an addiction.

Just as chronic drug use can damage parts of the brain, exercise can provide beneficial improvements. Individuals who exercise regularly demonstrate better thinking and memory skills than those who don’t. Exercise can even promote the brain’s ability to regenerate through a process call neurogenesis.

Regular Physical Activity

In the case of someone who has already developed an addiction, regular physical activity offers a wide range of benefits, too. The study mentioned that earlier exposure to exercise offers certain protective factors, which means the sooner you start, the greater the results.

Regardless of the type of exercise, the characteristic mood-lifting and energy-promoting aspects of exercise work to build back up what has been torn down by chronic drug use. Plus, the psychological effects of exercise may counteract one’s initial reasons for using drugs in the first place.

Consider a person who begins drinking as a result of depression. Frequent physical activity may decrease depressive feelings and eliminate a need to turn to a bottle.

Benefits to the Body

Since you were a child taking Physical Education in grade school, you have been bombarded with information about the immeasurable effects of exercise on the body. It seems that these same benefits manifest when exercise is used during treatment, as well.

Holistic programs that incorporate physical activity along with typical substance abuse treatment offer your body:

  • improved blood circulation
  • increased muscle growth
  • enhanced bone mass
  • ability to use more oxygen in the lungs
  • a way to control weight gain
  • reduced risk of medical conditions
  • greater energy

All these advantages are available to you when you exercise to treat your addiction. Whether through more conventional forms of exercise like running on a treadmill or strength training, or with surfing, swimming, or yoga, the more you do, the better the effects.

This is particularly so if you enjoy what you are doing. Look at it this way: if you work hard to improve your body, you won’t be so quick to destroy the work by using drugs again. The healthier your body is, the healthier your mind can be, and the stronger you will feel about battling your addiction.

Avalon Malibu offers a quality holistic substance abuse treatment program that incorporates effective addiction recovery with physical, emotional and spiritual healing. Your recovery starts with you, call today for more information.


  1. Smith, M.A. & Lynch, W.J. Exercise as a potential treatment for drug abuse: Evidence from preclinical studies. US Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. 2012.
  2. Can exercise play a role in the treatment process? National Institute on Drug Abuse. December 2012.
  3. Volkow, N.D. Physical activity may prevent substance abuse. National Institute on Drug Abuse. March 2011.
  4. Mercola, J. This is what happens to your body when you exercise. Peak Fitness. September 2013.

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