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How to Safely Replace Drug Addiction with Exercise to Initiate Real Recovery

Through strength, endurance, balance, and flexibility, exercise helps us maintain our bodies in good working order. The benefits of exercise are well known: physical activity helps us balance our calorie intake to maintain healthy body weight, and it keeps our muscles in tip-top shape. It’s also energizing and can help us relieve stress. When we exercise, we feel better. When we exercise with friends, motivation increases. No one would deny that exercise is really good for us. But can exercise help us beat addiction?

Recent research reveals that in addition to being good for our body, exercise has a positive effect on the brain. Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to regrow connections and remodel itself after injury or illness, and exercise seems to help it happen. It is precisely this beneficial effect on the brain that holds promise for addiction rehabilitation. But when you’re wondering how to replace addiction with exercise, it’s most important to focus on the best overall treatment approach for your long-term wellness in recovery.

The Many Benefits of Exercise

The effect of exercise on our muscles is obvious. As they contract repeatedly, muscles grow in size and increase in strength. Weight-bearing exercise also helps to strengthen our bones, as our bodies work against the force of gravity. Meanwhile, the challenge of exercise helps to build the capacity of our heart and lungs to more efficiently deliver oxygen to every cell of the body.

Through exciting research in recent years, the positive effects of exercise on the brain have begun to emerge. Harvard psychiatrist John Ratey has observed that exercise may be effectively used as a treatment for anxiety, depression, and ADHD, as well as a significant boost for cognition.

In his 2008 book, Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, Ratey explains that exercise turns on the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for executive function. This area of the brain is involved in decision-making, understanding consequences, and working toward a goal. Besides helping us defuse stress and anxiety, exercise helps to build engagement and increase motivation. His research suggests that when used to confront addiction, exercise can help us fight cravings and practice self-regulation more effectively.

Rather than simply replacing the addiction, modern interventions are using exercise very purposefully to help individuals overcome addictive behavior.

Learning How to Replace Drug Addiction with Exercise in a Productive Way

Though experts warn that you should never replace one addiction with another, exercise used in a purposeful, therapeutic capacity can be a game-changer in the field of rehabilitation. An addicted brain relies on a substance for stimulation. Once the substance is withdrawn, the brain still requires stimulation. Since exercise and substance use show an overlap in the parts of the brain that are activated, this knowledge can inform rehabilitation programming.  Rather than simply replacing the addiction, however, modern interventions are using exercise very purposefully to help individuals overcome addictive behavior.

Exercise has a variety of specific benefits for individuals finding their way back from substance abuse. On a physical level, exercise can bring healing oxygenation to body tissues and systems that may have been harmed by addiction. As a stress reliever, it can provide an outlet to work off stressors in a manner that is safe and not self-destructive. Exercise can be used to fill the time previously consumed with less-healthy pursuits and help you to build a social network based around a beneficial and positive activity. Physical accomplishments may boost confidence and self-efficacy, empowering former substance users to persist in recovery.

Groundbreaking Exercise for Addiction Recovery

Consider a program such as Active Recovery Coaching (ARC), which capitalizes on the power of exercise to motivate clients and to promote positive change in their brains. Based at the intersection of exercise science, interpersonal connection, and brain regeneration, KR helps participants find their own strength and resilience while engaging in positive, motivating challenges with their peers.

As a therapeutic tool, coaches can customize Active Recovery Coaching workouts to clients’ unique challenges and make it applicable to their lives.

As they work through the program, KR participants use structured physical activity to rewire their brain pathways as they reclaim their confidence and personal power. Using these tools to overcome addiction is not only healthy for their bodies and minds but also empowering for their spirits. As a therapeutic tool, coaches can customize KR workouts to clients’ unique challenges and make it applicable to their lives.

Clients can gain greater awareness of their role in relationships and the consequences of their actions through these thoughtfully designed group exercises. When interwoven with individual and group therapy, exercise becomes a positive force in an addict’s life and one that they can call on to help prevent relapse in the future.

Filling Your Toolbox with Powerful Recovery Tools

Though it should never be used to replace substance use as an alternate addictive behavior, exercise can help us overcome and recover from addiction. In the hands of an expert coach, it can help us to find our own inner strength and resilience as it empowers us to succeed. A program like Active Recovery Coaching, which draws upon brain science and the power of team interaction, uses physical exercise to revise those neural pathways that have led us astray.

Taking advantage of the wonderful ability of our brain to create new, more productive pathways leads to healing and to renewed opportunities. The teamwork aspect helps to keep us motivated and reminds us of our interdependence. Working together to support each other as we fight to implement permanent change makes success that much sweeter.

If you’re interested in learning how to replace drug addiction with empowering exercise, reach out to New Choices Treatment Centers. At the foundation of our treatment programs for addiction, Active Recovery Coaching challenges you to dig deep enough to uncover your most powerful, resilient self. With the guidance of an expert coach and the support of your team, you will engage in exercise that helps you build new, more productive neuropathways as you energize your body. Contact us online or by phone at (726) 888-7003 to learn how exercise can help you achieve your recovery goals.