During the throes of withdrawal, an addict can feel miserable and depressed, and understandably so. The withdrawal experience can hurt, physically and mentally, causing pain and depression. Many addicts undergoing withdrawal wish to use again simply to make withdrawal stop. It’s surprising, then, how effective a few minutes on the treadmill is at fighting this. Exercise is an unexpectedly strong tool in drug treatment programs, offering a positive activity that stimulates personal growth and actively fights the desire to relapse.
Exercise triggers the release of the chemicals endorphins and endocannabinoids in the brain. These chemicals produce a euphoric feeling, the brain’s own natural high. During a difficult time like withdrawal and ongoing residential and outpatient treatment, these chemicals can lift an addict’s mood, making them feel hopeful and self-confident. They can then use their new found confidence to make a more committed effort to abstain. And even without the natural high of exercise, the more attractive body that will result is an ego boost in itself!
Even more simply than that, exercise can serve as a distraction when cravings hit. Exercise keeps the body busy, and when a person is in the middle of swimming laps or running on a treadmill, they don’t have time to think about using. Regardless of effect, though, exercise is a healthy activity all addicts would be wise to try on their road to recovery.