Exercise as a Treatment Strategy for Addiction

The important role of exercise in helping to maintain optimal physical health is well known. Like the popular auto insurance commercial points out, “Everybody knows that.” But did you know exercise plays an important role in mental health as well? Numerous studies have demonstrated the benefits of exercise in treating virtually all forms of mental illness, from serious chronic mental illnesses like schizophrenia to acute and chronic depression and anxiety.

Exercise can be used as a primary form of treatment, as well as a complementary treatment to increase the effectiveness of other treatments like medications and talk therapies. Despite clear evidence of its positive effects, far too few physicians inform their patients of the value of a regular exercise program as part of their treatment strategy.

This is particularly evident in addiction treatment. While the top treatment centers incorporate exercise into their program for all patients/clients, more need to do so. It appears that those recovering from drug and alcohol addiction do particularly well when engaged in a regular exercise program. The reasons for this include bio-psycho-social factors.

The health effects of being, or getting, in shape are well documented. Virtually every organ in the body becomes more efficient when physical conditioning is improved. Chemical are released in the brain during sustained exercise that cause a natural reduction in stress levels.

In addition to the positive physical effects, a general sense of improved well being and social connectedness are also positive effects of exercise. People just tend to feel better about themselves when they are working out. Weight loss, increased exercise capacity, better sleep, increased energy levels and better concentration and focus are just a few of the desirable outcomes resulting from exercise, especially important for those working to take back control of their lives from addiction.

In future blog posts we will address which types of exercise are best. For now, just keep on movin’!