Exercises Proven to Help Fight Addiction Cravings
Exercise is an important but often understated component of addiction recovery. No single workout or routine can cure addiction, but the many benefits of regular exercise can significantly improve your chances of long-term recovery. Exercise and addiction go hand in hand while also helping give recovering addicts structure, keeps the mind preoccupied, enhances health, reduces stress, and increases self-esteem.
Here are some evidence-based benefits of exercise that specifically relate back to addiction recovery:
- In one Danish study on exercise and addiction recovery where participants were drug tested before the study, 75% of participants reported that regular exercise with a trained specialist over six months significantly increased their mental and physical health, as well as reduced their cravings for drugs, with 25% remaining completely sober more than a year later.
- According to Harvard scientists, regular exercise can help improve the manner in which the brain protects and enhances your cognitive abilities, repairing the damage incurred by heavy drug and alcohol abuse.
- According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, regular exercise can also reduce the body’s long-term response to stress in general, increasing your tolerance for stressful situations, which could be
- A study out of VanderbiltUniversity looked at college age drug users who were asked to run on a treadmill for 30 minutes a day for 5 days a week. Participants reported 50% fewer cravings for using their drug of choice, and also decreased their overall drug intake.
Here are some specific exercises that can help recovering addicts fight cravings and sustain sobriety:
Yoga is a great option for recovering addicts because it involves intense mental focus while emphasizing clarity of mind. Many treatment centers incorporate elements of yoga and meditation into their treatment programs. Yoga is a great place to start your fitness journey post-release from rehab because it helps you limber up the body and establish a baseline strength without posing a great risk to your body.
Enjoying the great outdoors is mankind’s most favorite past time (sorry baseball). Research shows that just being in nature can boost dopamine levels and relax you. Vitamin D, restorative effects on the brain, naturally occurring stress-reducing chemicals, improved blood pressure from fresh air… the list of positives that nature has for us is never-ending. So lace up your hiking boots and hit the trail!
Running is a great activity for recovering addicts that taps into the same single-minded focus that addicts are notorious for. Instead of chasing a substance high, you could be chasing runners high, the purported euphoria that runners get while engaged in a long period of running. Running for even just 20-30 minutes a day is linked to lower stress, healthier weight, and better mental cognition. It’s also a great excuse to get outside and enjoy more nature.
Moving through water is highly therapeutic and fun way to get exercise. Depending on your level of intensity, swimming is a great aerobic exercise that has been linked to reducing depression, reducing pain, and improving the quality of sleep. It’s also a low impact activity for those who may not be able to engage in higher impact activities such as running and hiking.
Playing a competitive game that gets you moving is more than just a good workout. It’s also an excellent opportunity to build social relationships with others, which can be a crucial component to sustained recovery. Competitive team sports get you physically fit, strengthen your social ties, and teach you how to be a team player.
Exercise is an important component of overall physical and mental health, and for that reason plays an important part in your continued recovery. If you’re struggling with post-rehab life, take the time to develop a structured fitness routine that gets you moving and that gets you socializing.
Matthew Boyle is the Chief Operating Officer of Landmark Recovery drug and alcohol rehab center and has been working in the healthcare space for 7 years now with a new emphasis on recovery. Before his ventures into healthcare, Matthew graduated from Duke University in 2011 Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree. After Duke Matthew went on to work for Boston Consulting Group before he realized where his true passion lied within Recovery. His vision is to save a million lives in 100 years with a unique approach to recovery that creates a supportive environment through trust, treatment, and intervention.