Exercise delivers a therapeutic benefit that carries over to the emotional or psychological aspects of addiction treatment. Research shows physical activity helps the body and brain heal quicker by boosting the immune system and restoring a healthy balance in brain chemicals. This reduces anxiety and stress, thereby facilitating recovery.
As a complementary therapy, exercise can be a positive replacement for self-destructive behaviors. Physical activity is believed to stimulate some of the same circuits and neurotransmitters in the brain as many addictive substances. An optimal routine should focus on both cardiovascular exercise and strength training. Some activities that promote physical and emotional healing include working out in a gym, fitness classes, hiking, tennis and basketball.
Exercise can redirect clients’ focus from detrimental thoughts and behaviors (e.g., alcohol or drug use) onto healthier pursuits. It’s an excellent way for clients struggling with addiction, trauma and other mental health issues to cope with triggers and cravings and manage stress in healthy ways.
Exercise provides similar benefits as meditation. It helps people to live in the here and now, clears the mind, and improves focus and concentration. Exercise also releases endorphins, the “feel good” chemicals in the brain. Benefits include: