Most addiction treatments involve some form of “talk therapy” or counseling. The aim is often to help the addict to find out why they continue to be addicted despite the negative consequences. Therapy also helps people develop more effective ways to manage the emotions that help promote addictive behaviors.
While these treatment approaches are helpful for many people with addiction, some believe they need an approach that helps with the physical rather than the mental or emotional aspects of the addiction. Others find that exercise helps manage cravings as a replacement for talk therapy.
Over the years exercise has been recognized as a self-help tool for people recovering from addiction problems to aid recovery. Only recently has exercise been recognized as a standalone addiction treatment.
Effects of Exercise During Withdrawal
Withdrawal is an uncomfortable experience that occurs when an addictive substance (such as alcohol or drugs) or addictive behavior (such as gambling, compulsive sex, or overeating) is stopped. Withdrawal symptoms vary in intensity and what symptoms appear depending on the person and who they are withdrawing from.
All withdrawal symptoms include craving for more of the substance or behavior and relieving withdrawal when more of the substance is taken or the behavior is involved.If youIf you
Feelings of depression or despair, anxiety or lethargy, irritability or anger, digestive problems and nervous system symptoms such as sweating, dry or watery mouth, headaches and muscle tension are common. Withdrawal symptoms for different substances can also vary:
- Alcohol withdrawal
- Nicotine withdrawal
- Cannabis withdrawal
- Caffeine withdrawal
- Heroin withdrawal
- Cocaine withdrawal
- Meth withdrawal
Exercise has been repeatedly found to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. Since these are the main withdrawal symptoms, experts are increasingly suggesting that exercise can relieve withdrawal symptoms.If youIf you
One type of withdrawal that has been shown to be assisted by exercise is nicotine withdrawal. Numerous studies have shown that smokers who exercise have less cravings for cigarettes, better mood and fewer withdrawal symptoms than non-athletes who quit smoking.If youIf you
Relapse prevention exercise
Exercise has been studied as a treatment to reduce the risk of relapse into addictive behavior and has been shown to reduce drug cravings and improve treatment outcomes. Some results:
- People who are recovering from an alcohol use disorder and who have completed the withdrawal period of detox have less urge to drink when they are able to exercise.If youIf you
- And people who recover from a cannabis use disorder and exercise longer have reduced their cravings for marijuana.
- Exercise has also been studied in combination with other treatments and has been found helpful when other therapies are used.
- Emergency management, a reward-based system rather than therapy, can also be more effective when combined with exercise-related activities.If youIf you
Potential and Limits of Movement as an Addiction Treatment
Exercise seems to have great unexplored potential as a complementary treatment for addiction.If youIts positive effects on both mood and withdrawal symptoms make it a great solution to help people recover from addiction, feel better, be healthier, and avoid relapses, and may even help prevent some of the repair neurological damage caused by substance use.
However, exercise alone will not help you understand why you became addicted in the first place, spot triggers, or learn more effective methods of managing your emotions. However, it can help improve your emotional state, and it can make other therapies more effective.
There is also a small risk that you will exercise too much and develop an addiction to exercise, although this is rare.If youIt’s a good idea to speak to your doctor before you start exercising to make sure it’s right for you.