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Using Exercise to Aid Alcohol and Drug Recovery

Multiple Benefits to Getting Active

Many professional alcohol and drug treatment and rehabilitation programs include exercise as part of an overall program to help patients maintain abstinence and develop a more healthy lifestyle. Many residential treatment centers feature fully-equipped exercise facilities on the premises.

Traditionally, the main reason exercise has been recommended for those trying to quit alcohol and drugs is because it keeps them focused on something other than their withdrawal symptoms or cravings. Now, however, there may be evidence that exercise has additional benefits to those who want to avoid drinking and using drugs.

Research Shows Exercise Can Help

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has set aside $4 million for scientific research to explore a possible role for physical activity in substance abuse and relapse prevention.

When announcing the funding, NIDA director Dr. Nora Volkow cited two studies that have shown exercise to be a benefit. In one, adolescents who exercised daily were half as likely to smoke cigarettes as their sedentary counterparts, and 40% less likely to experiment with marijuana.

In another study, women who were in a smoking-cessation program doubled their chances of quitting by adding exercise to their routines three days a week, compared to women in the study who did not exercise. They also had less weight gain.

Everyone Can Benefit

If exercise can help people in residential treatment facilities and subjects in scientific studies, it can benefit anyone trying to quit drinking and drugging or striving to maintain abstinence.

Exercise is something to which everyone has access. You don’t have to become a world-class athlete to enjoy the benefits of exercise as part of your recovery. You don’t have to join a professional gymnasium, hire a personal trainer or buy expensive equipment, although those options can be beneficial also. Exercise is something that you can do on your own.

Before You Start

Not everyone is healthy enough to jump right into a full-blown exercise regime. If you have not exercised lately and you have been sedentary for more than a year, you need to see your doctor and get a check-up before you begin any exercise program.

If you have any medical conditions — such as heart disease, diabetes or high blood pressure — you definitely need to check with your healthcare provider before beginning exercise. Also, if you are pregnant, have chronic back or neck pain or are recovering from an injury, check with your doctor first.

Originally posted on Very Well Mind

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