How Exercise fights Addiction


As the owner of a studio that promotes health and well-being, I have also known the other side of life second-hand through having a sibling who suffered through addiction. My own little brother passed away two years ago from an accidental overdose. I truly have to step back and say that I never thought addiction could touch me or my family. We grew up in a nice enough neighborhood, our parents did their best to raise us with every thing we needed to succeed. We were close in age and had a bond only siblings understand, made up of inside jokes, a deep understanding of one another's history, a love for our family dogs, and jokes about our parent's only each other would understand (because only we shared the same mom and dad). 

It was hard for me to grasp that my younger brother, who was an all-star baseball player (a left-handed pitcher) and a sweet, kind, loving soul was depressed and anxious. When he didn't feel he had anywhere else to turn, he was convinced he could aid his bouts of depression on his own by taking pain medicine. When we found out, my brother went away to get clean and heal from his dependence. He knew he wanted to be stripped of any substance and take on a new reality again, one without substances and one with meaning. 

Unfortunately, days after returning home from his time away, he relapsed. Unexpectedly and incredibly sudden, he overdosed when no one was home.

The entirety of my brother's addiction was only about 8 months from the time he tried self-medicating to the time he passed away. The abruptness of this addiction is why it can be very hard to detect in loved ones. We also have the tendency to tell ourselves that something like THAT could never happen to US. Please believe me when I say that addiction is the worst stigma. Once you understand that beyond our income level, our education level, our appearances; we are all just human. We are imperfect, we are chemically balanced and imbalanced, and we are susceptible to slipping up, whatever that may mean to you. It is so important to be open to conversing with those we love, and to guiding those who need us toward healthy and constructive remedies.

I received an email from a kind lady who wanted to write an article for this blog on how Exercise fights Addiction. I was so happy to push this information onto our blog, especially after my own experience. Her name is Constance and she is a freelance writer specializing in topics of addiction. I'm grateful that she reached out to us. Here is her article below:

3 Ways Exercise fights Addiction

Anyone who has attempted to recover from addiction, or who loves someone in recovery, knows how difficult the process is. In fact, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates that between 40%-60% of people in addiction treatment relapse, though the chance of relapse drops to less than 15% after five years of sobriety. We also know that stress is a common trigger for relapse. That’s why people in recovery should devote time to their physical and mental fitness and maintain an all-around healthy routine to remain in recovery for the long term.

1. Stress Management is Key to Recovery

Achieving and maintaining recovery do not happen on their own. People who want to stay in recovery need to work every day to lead a sober life full of positive relationships and healthy choices that include proper nutrition, rest, exercise, and stress management. Stress affects your entire body, and stress and anxiety lead to depression, substance abuse, and relapse. Safeguarding against stress and finding coping techniques remain important for anyone in recovery, regardless of how long he has been sober, to prevent a relapse. That’s why finding ways to relax, recharge, and escape stress is vital to recovery.

2. How Exercise Treats Drug and Alcohol Abuse

Studies show that any amount of exercise can benefit addicts and people in recovery, and exercise has therapeutic effects for women and men. In fact, exercising regularly is one of the best ways to manage stress because it relieves both physical and mental stress. Specifically, exercise helps people avoid relapse, as it “is effective at reducing drug self-administration when initiated only after regular patterns of drug intake have been established – a period of time analogous to that experienced by clinical populations undergoing formal treatment.” Thus, exercise is an effective preventative and treatment intervention for people who struggle with substance use and abuse.

The research also shows that people in recovery should pursue aerobic exercise. To maximize the benefits of aerobic exercise for your recovery, use large muscle groups repetitively three to five days for 30-60 minutes weekly. It helps if you find ways to enjoy the exercise because you will be more likely to stick to it and, in turn, to your path to recovery. 

3. Group Exercise, or Exercise in Nature Improves Mental Health

Group exercise, as opposed to exercising alone at the gym or in your house, is great in the way that it keeps you accountable. You're scheduled for a class at a certain time with a group of people who are ALL working toward one overall common goal: to stay healthy. It also is a motivating environment when you're among a group of people and you can feel their energy and push others around you. 

If you combine aerobic exercise with a natural setting, you will improve your physical and mental health simultaneously. Being in nature increases your vitamin D intake and improves your sleep quality. Exposure to natural sunlight regulates your circadian rhythm and improves your sleep patterns. Better yet, proper sleep reduces your symptoms of stress: surveys show that adults who fail to get eight hours of sleep nightly have higher stress levels than those who sleep at least eight hours a night. It also is easier for people to sleep when they have less stress because their minds do not race as much. 

Working out in nature or in a group setting is a great way to work toward healthier habits and heal yourself, mind and body, to stay as mentally well as can be. 

A special thanks to Constance for this insightful advice.

To those who may know someone who could potentially seek out addiction, or those who may struggle through addiction, there is nothing more powerful than talking and awareness. Being there for those you love, without judgement, is essential to the health and well-being to all of us.

In health and wellness,