Today’s blog is a collaboration piece written by Bethany Hatton. Bethany, a retired librarian with 32 years of experience, created after her oldest grandson became addicted to opioids. Though she discovered there is no guaranteed way to prevent addiction; she was able to find many helpful resources that can keep the public up to date on the latest prevention, addiction, and recovery information.

It should come as no surprise that exercise is often used in drug and alcohol treatment. Maintaining a physically strong and active body will keep you healthy, but exercise has a few surprise benefits that can help you avoid drugs and alcohol.

It’s All in Your Head

Introducing chemicals into your system has powerful, negative effects on the brain. Drugs and alcohol wreak havoc on your brain’s ability to regulate certain hormones that affect mood, reasoning, and emotions. Likewise, exercise has an equally strong influence over the brain. But without the negative side effects.

The endorphins released after a workout can produce a similar sensation as your substance of choice. Many recovering addicts have turned to fitness, specifically running, as a healthy alternative to using. There are a number of short-term benefits from exercise. The most talked-about is an endorphin rush. But other benefits include stress release and sounder sleep. In the long-term, regular exercise can boost your self-confidence, making you better able to maintain your seat on the proverbial wagon.

Others have taken a more spiritual approach to physical activity during their recovery journey. They incorporate things like yoga and meditation into their new lifestyles. These activities simultaneously strengthen the body and the mind. Not to mention aid in reducing stress from both ends of the spectrum. Consistency is key to getting the most out of meditative activities. That’s why many people design a specific space to their practice. They remove the clutter and distractions of daily life and replacing them with calming elements like objects from nature.

Strong from the Inside Out

Your body needs to be in motion. Living a sedentary lifestyle can light the spark that triggers diseases such as obesity and diabetes. Consuming drugs and alcohol only fan the flame. It’s likely that your negative choices have led to a ravaged body. If you constantly feel tired, suffer from aches and pains, or struggle with memory, you’re not alone. Long-term drug misuse takes a toll on the body. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, it can lead to everything from a damaged liver to impaired neurological function. Drugs can also cause cardiovascular, respiratory, hormonal, prenatal, musculoskeletal and gastrointestinal deficiencies.

Just as drugs take your health, exercise can replenish it. Studies have shown that regular exercise can reduce the population of inflammatory markers within your body. It may slow the development of C-reactive protein, which is linked to a host of diseases. Just 20 minutes of mild cardiovascular activity lowers these marker levels by up to 5 percent. Exercise will also strengthen the lungs and revitalize your body’s endocrine system, which is responsible for regulating hormones. Dr. Natasha Turner explains that as little as 60 to 90 minutes of fitness training can help equalize your hormones. This alone can have a profound effect on your physical and mental health.

Opportunity Knocks

Lesser considered are the socialization opportunities that go along with exercise. A structured fitness program such as a dance class or martial arts training will force you to be around people who exert a positive influence. When you are using, your social network likely consisted of other abusers or, even worse, leaving you feeling lonely and isolated from the world. Healthy socialization and the strong friendship bonds that come along with it can act as a buffer between yourself and bad decisions. Your new network will be comprised of other individuals who are on their own health and wellness journey. You can support one another along the way.

Replacing Bad Behaviors

Think about the time you spent using drugs, hiding it, or fixing the mistakes you made while under the influence. This time can be channeled into exercise and other positive activities. When you make physical fitness a priority, you’re more likely to focus on other aspects of your wellness such as healthy eating, getting enough sleep and making sure your home is a stress-free environment. The natural progression of engaging in a healthy lifestyle is leaving abuse behind and holding on to it only as a memory of a life you no longer need.

Exercise has a positive effect on not only your mind and body but also your actions. It can help reverse the long-term damage sustained by drug misuse and put you on a path that leads you far from relapse.

Do You or a Loved One Need Help?

Exercise is a wonderful coping mechanism to help you when times are hard. But we realize going for a run isn’t the end all be all. Yes it may help, but you need a variety of tools to help you overcome life’s obstacles. With a good support system, professional help and a will to succeed, you can kick your substance abuse habit once and for all.

At Cristina Panaccione and Associates we have two locations in the South Hills of Pittsburgh. We are currently accepting a limited number of new patients for addiction treatment. Check out some of our Coffee with a Counselor videos to learn more about the ways we can help you find recovery!


* This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please contact a medical professional for advice.

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