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Sports Against Addiction: Is Workout the Best Remedy?


Undoubtedly, doing sports is a way to improve both physical and mental health. It provides body and brain with so many benefits that everyone should make it a part of a daily routine. Physical activity is especially useful for those who have mental health issues such as substance abuse. Addiction is a common mental disorder causing both physical and psychological consequences. 

Despite various effective psychopharmacologic and psychotherapeutic ways of treatment, statistics shows that relapses are quite frequent. Thus, there is a need for adjuvant cure strategies that help to maintain abstinence. People undergoing holistic rehabilitation are highly recommended to do exercises on a daily basis. So how can workout help to stay sober?

Long-term substance abuse makes significant harm to the brain, especially its white matter which consists of connections linking brain cells.

1. Sports reduces the level of stress. Subjective stress is a reason of taking addictive substances. Modern studies show that doing sports on a regular basis protects from everyday worries and helps ease psychological tension.

Alleviating anxiety with substances is not only unhealthy but less effective. Addictive substances don’t change the brain’s chemistry that could naturally diminish stressful feelings. Taking substances can relieve stress for a short period of time, but it doesn’t help to combat it in the long run.

Thus, those who undergo holistic drug addiction treatment (click here to read) could use the workout as a healthy substitution to drugs as physical exercises improve well-being and raise spirits if it’s not so intense and competitive. 

2. Peaceful sleep. In early recovery, one may experience problems with sleep. Regardless of the drug type that was used, abstinence can affect sleep a lot. It can cause difficulties in falling asleep and drowsiness during the daytime.

Feeling sluggish and tired are unpleasant consequences of drug cessation. Regular workout improves sleep both in its amount and quality.

Therefore, as sleep gets better, so does wakefulness. It means a person can better tackle everyday demands of life without turning to drugs.

Playing sports or doing yoga can significantly change sleep patterns in a positive way and enhance general well-being.

Woman running up steps close-up
Modern studies show that doing sports on a regular basis protects from everyday worries and helps ease psychological tension. Image via unsplash

3. Energy boost. Individuals recovering from addiction need energy to adapt to the demands of their new lives and stay sober.

Paradoxically, to get more energy, one must first spend it. Active exercises push blood through the heart which increases oxygen levels in the body. It makes the cardiovascular system stronger which allows to perform daily activities much easier.

People doing sports at holistic rehabilitation centers are able to complete tasks more efficiently and with less effort making their lives more manageable.

4. Better mood. Most addicts are willing to take drugs to experience positive and relaxed states of mind. Luckily, substance intake is not the only way to pleasure.

It’s proven that workout can make one feel peace of mind by alterations in neurotransmission which is experienced as natural internal reward stimulation. This is a kind of endogenous reward.

Moreover, as the body gets detoxified from drug chemicals, one may experience frequent mood swings. Feelings can dramatically fluctuate from euphoric to extremely negative. Doing sports helps to regulate emotions and feel more balanced.

5. Healing the brain. Long-term substance abuse makes significant harm to the brain, especially its white matter which consists of connections linking brain cells. The quality of this connection defines the neuroplasticity of the brain.

Modern experiments show that endurance workout helps in the secretion of neurotransmitters which are linked to neuroprotection and plasticity which are essential for successful addiction recovery.

Researches carried out at the University of Colorado point out that aerobic exercises enhance the brain’s recovery after substance addiction. It was proven by scientists that doing sports results in creating BDNF that helps to grow neurons and increase the brain’s plasticity.

6.Getting rid of drug-seeking behavior. One of the strongest triggers of abuse relapse is acute cravings. Scientists argue that doing sports may downregulate cravings and distressing feelings related to withdrawal.

Thus, one gets less obsessed with getting drugs and can cope with substance longing. Moreover, sports games provide addicts with social support which is essential for drug seekers.

Building new social networks with other team players helps to boost frustration tolerance and diminish the desire to take another dosage.

7. Intervention for mental diseases. Depression is one of the most common disorders in substance abuse.

Moreover, it is a negative predictor for recovery outcome. Healthcare professionals argue that sports may serve as a long-term intervention for depression.

It’s important to note that physical exercises must be of the optimal intensity, as highly intensive training don’t help balance mood. On the contrary, they cause even more stress and tiresome. 

Psychologists argue that addiction is a kind of maladaptive coping strategy that is used by an individual to manage difficult and stressful situations. Exercising can be viewed as an alternative coping strategy to regulate emotions and deal with negative feelings caused by everyday problems.

There is a strong evidence that physical activity is a highly effective adjunct treatment method for drug addiction. According to the recent studies, it helps with abstinence from substances in drug abusers. 

Adjusting to life without substances is not easy. On the contrary, it’s difficult and tiring. But engaging in regular exercise can make this process less troublesome, as doing sports helps to relieve stress, stabilize sleep, boost energy, improve mood as well as heal the brain and reduce drug-seeking behavior.

Thus, modern holistic recovery centers promote physical activity for successful treatment, as it is an effective way to stay clean and sober. 


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