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Exercise – The Secret Weapon to Recovery

woman tying her shoes before exercise

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We recently came across an article written by our friends at Northstar Transitions that, based upon a recent study performed by the University of Buffalo, asked the question: Can exercise help prevent cocaine relapse?

The study reports findings in mice that reveal that running on a treadmill for one hour, five times a week can result in “memory clearance.” This essentially causes forgetfulness of the original craving.

We decided to look a little deeper into the science and practical application of exercise – not only to prevent cocaine relapse but relapse of all kinds.

It is well documented that exercise offers many holistic benefits. But as it relates to the value of exercise in combating addictive behaviors, can there be a layering of beneficial effects?

In 2003, The American Psychological Association published a report chronicling the role of physical exercise in alcoholism treatment and recovery. They cited several effects of a good workout that assisted in the wellbeing of the subject(s).

Exercise allows the achievement of a pleasurable state without the use of drugs. The activation of the endogenous opioid system triggered by alcohol is also addressed by a vigorous workout.  Those who work out tend to report a mood boost, even to the point of mild euphoria, post-exercise.

The group nature of most workouts – even if the subject is performing an individual workout – also helps to provide a social element that many addicts seek when using illicit substances. It might benefit the addict to join a group workout in an effort to take advantage of the positive social pressures toward making healthy choices.

And finally, the report addresses the fact that working out helps decrease stress, and improves coping skills – both of which are driving factors in an individual’s decision to use drugs.

There are many other elements that make up a successful run at living sober. Regular accountability, counseling and a healthy network of people who support you in your recovery are all essential to your success. If you or a loved one would benefit from further discussion, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us here at A New Outlook Counseling Services.

  • Robert J. Johnson, SAP, MAC, LAC

    Robert J. Johnson is a Substance Abuse Professional, Master Addiction Counselor and a Licensed Addiction Counselor. His experience includes private practice, residential in-patient, intensive residential treatment, outpatient, sober living and therapeutic communities. He is the Executive Director of A New Outlook Counseling Services serving the Denver metro area of Colorado.

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