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Exercise and Addiction Recovery: 9 Benefits + Exercise Tips

If you have made the decision to detox from drugs and alcohol, the process can seem daunting. Withdrawal symptoms and cravings can make it difficult to stay on course with detox and recovery. For many going through detox from drugs and alcohol, there is a need to fill the void left by substances. Recent data suggests that exercise can help remove toxins from the body, lessen stress, and improve overall health during and after drug detox. While it is always best to consult your doctor for specific guidance and advice regarding drug detox, keep reading for some tips on exercising during detox.

Benefits of Exercise for Drug Detox

Exercise is good for you – we all know that. But for individuals struggling with drug addiction or going through detox, exercise can have a wide range of benefits beyond weight management or building muscle. Incorporating exercise into your daily routine can help your body heal from substance abuse while naturally detoxing.

1. Eliminate Toxins

Toxins are eliminated through waste, which means it can take some time for drugs or alcohol to leave your system. However, you can also eliminate toxins by sweating. An accelerated heart rate can cause your body to rid itself of toxins through your pores. Exercise, saunas, and Epsom salt baths are a few ways to open your pores and let the toxins flow out. As blood circulates through the body, our liver, lungs, and lymph nodes are able to better filter out pollutants.

2. Balance Dopamine Levels

Drug use can disrupt the chemicals in your brain, including dopamine. This chemical that induces happiness can be found through exercising, which boosts your mood. In some cases, it is possible to return your dopamine levels to where they were before drug abuse began through physical activity. Depression and anxiety are common symptoms of withdrawal, and regular exercise can help you combat these issues as well as lethargy during detox.

3. Sense of Accomplishment

Recovery is a lifelong road, and the drug or alcohol detox process can be difficult. At certain points in your journey, you may feel like giving up. Completing a workout or reaching a fitness goal can provide a sense of accomplishment even if you are struggling in other areas of recovery. Setting small, achievable goals can help you maintain momentum and identify your own strength when times are tough. Having a sense of control over your body through exercise can also combat feelings of helplessness or worthlessness during detox.

4. Establish a Routine

Building and breaking habits takes times. Drug addictions can be developed over days, weeks, months, or years, and take significantly longer to break. Establishing a regular exercise routine can help you build healthy habits, while reducing your available time for damaging habits. A commitment to working out regularly encourages other healthy habits like staying hydrated and maintaining a healthy diet.

5. Reduce Stress

Exercising releases endorphins, which make you feel good. Almost any form of exercise can help relieve stress and improve your overall mood. You can get a natural high, or “runner’s high”, from the endorphins produced by your brain during exercise. Repetitive motion or movement can also encourage you to focus on the task at hand, letting go of the stresses of the day. In some ways, exercise can serve as a form of meditation to clear your mind, increase self-confidence, and help you relax.

6. Improve Sleep

Insomnia is a common symptom related to drug and alcohol withdrawal, and a lack of sleep can cause other withdrawal symptoms to worsen. Exercising can help you fall asleep faster while also improving your overall sleep quality. Just 30 minutes of aerobic exercise can make a difference in sleep quality almost immediately. It is important to pay attention to the time of day you exercise. For some, exercising too late in the evening can cause you to stay awake longer.

7. Keep Your Body and Mind Busy

Workouts and sports require a lot of energy and focus. When your mind and body are busy focusing on the task at hand, there is little left to devote to your addiction. Distraction can be a positive tool during detox, helping keep your mind off of the uncomfortable symptoms of withdrawal or cravings. Also, by exhausting yourself through exercise, you will have less energy and motivation to accommodate your addiction.

8. Form Healthy Connections

Workout classes, gym memberships, and boot camps are all great ways to form healthy connections with new people. Whether you participate in an online workshop or meet friends at your local gym, you can build relationships outside of your addiction. Finding accountability partners can help you stay motivated to exercise and reach your health goals. Building these healthy connections can also help fight the desire to isolate or feelings of loneliness during recovery.

9. Reduce the Risk of Relapse

Some studies show that exercise can reduce drug cravings, making it an effective tool for continued treatment. Regular exercise can help lower the urge to engage in addictive behavior and improve outcomes for addiction treatment. When combined with other medically-supervised detox and recovery treatments, exercise can boost the effectiveness of drug addiction therapies.

Exercises for Drug Detox

There are a wide range of exercise you can do to mitigate the symptoms of drug and alcohol withdrawal and boost your overall health. Getting your heart rate up is key to sweating out toxins, releasing endorphins, and feeling a sense of accomplishment. It may take some time and practice to find which exercises provide you with the most personal benefits, so be prepared to try a few different activities.

Yoga

Yoga requires discipline and focus, traits that are essential for drug detox and recovery. At many treatment facilities for drug or alcohol detox, you will find that yoga is a regular part of the experience. As you strengthen your body with yoga, you are releasing dopamine. For many, yoga also serves as a form of meditation to clear the mind and reduce stress levels.

Walking

Getting outside and moving is a great way to stay busy. Walking requires little investment in equipment and you do not need a gym membership. You can also complete short walks throughout the day, or take a long hike to clear your mind.

Strength Training

Lifting weights and completing strength training exercises can help improve sleep quality. Weight training is a great way to combat insomnia and feel a sense of accomplishment as you are able to increase your weights.

High Intensity Training

High intensity training burns fat and boosts metabolism. Periods of intense activity followed by recovery can make you sweat, releasing toxins from the body. Popular options for high intensity training include bicycling, swimming, and running.

Teams

Joining a team can provide you with a fun exercise routine while forming new, healthy connections. Exercising with friends can help take your mind off the physical demands of working out, and you can build relationships that are outside of your addiction.

Important Considerations for Exercising During Detox

While exercise can help you through the detox process, it is important to exercise safely. Over-exercising and neglecting other areas of wellness can cause health problems. Keep the following tips in mind when incorporating exercise into drug detox.

Consult Your Physician

Your doctor can recommend the best types of workout for your current situation and provide important information to keep you safe. They will let you know the level of physical activity you should complete, how often, and how to recognize warning signs of trouble.

Stay Hydrated

Dehydration is a common problem with detox and withdrawal, so staying hydrated is essential. When working out, it is even more important to stay hydrated and replenish the fluids lost during exercise. Drinking water can also help flush toxins from your body faster while combating side effects like fatigue or muscle pain.

Focus on Nutrition

As you remove toxins from your body, you should replace them with healthy consumptions. Your doctor can provide specific guidance for your diet during detox, but it is important to cut down sugars and bad fats. Processed and refined foods can be difficult to digest during this time, and fruits and vegetables, in addition to vitamin & supplement support, can provide the fuel you need to keep going.

Exercising will Not Help You Pass a Drug Test

While exercising can help you detox, it cannot help you pass a drug test. Exercise is meant as part of a long-term solution for recovery from drug addiction. It should not be used as a short-term solution when preparing for a drug test.

Combine Exercise with Addiction Treatment

Exercise alone is not enough for recovery. With drug addiction or alcoholism, it is important to find healthy ways to manage emotions, recognize triggers, and identify what led to addiction. Regular exercise can certainly improve effectiveness of treatment, and workouts should be incorporated as part of a larger drug addiction recovery plan.

Sources

  1. https://www.rehabcenter.net/the-five-step-guide-to-detoxifying-your-body-from-drugs-and-alcohol/
  2. https://www.addictioncenter.com/community/sweating-it-out-exercise-and-addiction-recovery/
  3. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/exercise-and-stress/art-20044469
  4. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/exercising-for-better-sleep
  5. https://www.verywellmind.com/how-exercise-can-help-you-beat-an-addiction-4115857

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