Can Exercise Help Treat Addiction?

Addiction can come in any shape and form, from shopping and sex to alcohol and nicotine. And while most people won’t make the cut for “My Strange Addiction,” treating addictions of any kind can be incredibly complex. But adding exercise into the mix might be one way to strengthen the effects of treatment, research suggests.

Endorphin Distortion — Why It Matters
When an individual is trying to recover from addiction, the body and mind miss whatever was producing endorphins in the brain, responsible for that “high” feeling. Add in everyday stress, which can heighten cravings, and the recovery process can be a knockdown, drag-out fight.

But where do the push-ups, sprints and squats come in? It can be common for an individual to become depressed during withdrawal, so behavioral treatments can help an addict foster healthy, drug-free living, both physically and emotionally. And since exercise also causes the release of endorphins (which can act as that natural high after an especially good sweat session) along with endocannaboids (a marijuana-like substance which can enhance the natural high), it’s possible working out can help an individual cope with the recovery process.

Studies also show exercise can reduce stress, because galanin (a chemical found in the brain during exercise) seems to diminish certain stress-related cravings. Other research has found that smokers report fewer withdrawal symptoms and less intense cravings after a trip to the gym. Stick with exercise long-term, and it might even diminish drug-seeking behaviors (along with that midsection).

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