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Health Moment: Exercise and Addiction

For some men, it’s difficult to admit when help is needed. Sometimes he has to come to the full realization that a drug and alcohol addiction is ruining his health, relationships, and career first. Therefore, the initial step to recovery is to join a treatment program that specializes in rehab for men. Once enrolled in rehab he will be put on a progressive withdrawal schedule. This can be difficult but one way to reduce the stress of drug and alcohol withdrawal is to use exercise as a way to feel centered. Over the long term, exercise will also help him reclaim his health.

Exercise does not necessarily mean running, jogging, and swimming. It does not necessarily mean lifting weights or doing calisthenics. And it does not necessarily mean taking up an individual or team sport. While many men love this type of athletic activity, others loathe the idea of heavy exertion, rapid breathing, and profuse sweating to get back in shape. 

The good news is that less strenuous exercise like yoga can be just as useful. Yoga develops your strength, builds muscle, and burns fat as you hold certain postures. Some forms, like Vinyasa Yoga, even improve your cardiovascular health. In addition, yoga develops your inner strength.

How Exercise Makes a Difference

Prolonged abuse of drug and alcohol wreak havoc on all parts of your life—including the strength, endurance, and flexibility of your body. While a treatment program will help addicts repair the psychological aspects of chemical dependency, an exercise program will help repair the physical damage and restore your mind-body connection.

Here are 5 primary benefits that come from exercising:

  1. Exercise puts you back in control.

The feeling of loss of control can be devastating. You feel helpless and confused because you have forgotten how to trust yourself. When exercising, your brain lights up with a flood of “feel-good” hormones like serotonin and dopamine. You feel strong and alive. As you pump blood through your body, you feel a surge of personal power as your muscles look larger and stronger in the mirror.

You also begin to get an increasing sense of control as you see your body change over time. You see muscles that you didn’t think you had before. Flat, flabby arms begin to bulge with clearly visible deltoids, biceps, and triceps; a large belly begins to recede and disappear; and chubby thighs morph into sculpted legs that make you want to wear shorts again.

  1. Exercise reduces stress

Stress is experienced as psychological stress—a feeling of anxiety—and as muscular tension—unconsciously contracted muscles. Exercise relieves both these forms of visible stress.

Physical stress is a result of accumulated tension in the body. It can arise in a variety of ways:

  • When you’re working and experiencing internal conflict through your interactions as well as when you’re using the same muscles over and over in a repetitive motion.
  • When you’re relaxing in front of the television and unconsciously tensing up based on what you’re watching.
  • When you’re having an argument with someone.
  • When you have poor sitting, standing, or walking posture.

Exercise forces your body to move in a variety of ways and this allows you to dissipate the negative emotions locked up in your muscles.

  1. Exercise naturally shifts your brain chemistry

When you take drugs or alcohol, you experience a surge of endorphins, which increases the amount of doses it takes to become high. Essentially, your biology has an adaptive response. When you exercise, you also experience a surge of endorphins. Although these are similar to what you experienced with substance abuse, your body does not use an adaptive mechanism to counter the surge of endorphins. It does not react to these naturally stimulated endorphins as a threat. Now the same level of exercise intensity can consistently create the same natural high. Your brain has learned how to regulate its chemistry in a healthy way.

  1. Exercise is meditative.

We often think of meditation as sitting still and chanting a mantra or focusing on your breath. However, these are just the means of getting into a meditative state. Anything that frees up your mind from frantic mental activity can be considered meditation. 

When you are exercising, your mind is preoccupied on the posture motion. For example, if you’re doing a yoga asana, you are either aware of a painful muscle loosening up or aware of holding your balance—you don’t have enough working memory available to worry about the amount of money in your bank account or if your relationship is falling apart. 

Over time, just like sitting meditation, an athletic lifestyle makes you tend to worry about things much less.

  1. You enjoy better moods.

As you begin to regulate your body, you begin to regulate your life as well. You sleep better. You make better food choices. You enjoy sex more. As your self-confidence goes up, your feelings of depression go down. All this, of course, improves your overall mood throughout the day.

A Synergistic Effect

Treatment and exercise work well together. While a good treatment program can do wonders for your psychology, exercise does wonders for your body. 

 

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