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Using Fitness Training to Beat Cravings in Early Recovery

Most substance abuse treatment revolves around individual or group therapy to identify the root causes of the addiction and change negative thought patterns. In counseling, you will also learn more effective ways of managing the stressors that fuel addictive behaviors. 

While these treatment methods have helped many young men take their first steps on the road to lifelong sobriety, some people find even more benefit from working on the physical aspects of their health and wellness. Regular exercise can help manage cravings, which may be a particular challenge in early recovery.

Exercise During the Withdrawal Phase

Removing all drugs and alcohol from your body and brain via medically managed detoxification is the first phase of recovery. The absence of addictive substances can cause intensely uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, depending on the substance of use, length of abuse, your age and other factors. 

A growing body of expert research is increasingly suggesting that regular fitness training can alleviate common withdrawal symptoms like stress, depression, insomnia and anxiety. Bouts of exercise can help you cope with withdrawal by improving your mood and reducing cravings. 

Beating Cravings That Might Lead to a Relapse

Over time, substance abuse changes brain chemistry by affecting the way neurons send and transmit messages via chemicals called neurotransmitters. As the addiction worsens, users might reach a point where they only feel “normal” when drinking or using. This altered brain chemistry explains why cravings might arise, even after months of sobriety. 

Physical exercise can also impact brain chemistry, but in a positive way. While you might have heard this effect called “runner’s high,” it can happen with any sustained movement, including low-impact practices like yoga. Consistent activity acts on the reward system, flooding the brain with a feel-good chemical called dopamine and increasing the number of available dopamine receptors. In other words, exercise not only improves your mood while you’re doing your workout, but also long after you finish your sweat session.

Improve Your Outlook on Life

By acting on the brain’s dopamine pathways, getting and staying active could eventually let you substitute substance use for a much healthier hobby. Fitness training can reverse the damage left behind after long-term substance abuse, allowing you to enjoy simple daily pleasures instead of continually chasing the next high. 

Exercise could also help you feel more positive and optimistic by reducing your anxiety levels and bringing a sense of contentment, helping decrease your cravings and urges to engage in self-destructive behavior. In creating and following a workout regimen in early recovery, you’ll get stressors under control and strengthen your mind-body connection.

Do the Right Thing for Your Health

At Spearhead Lodge, we believe fitness training is essential for fighting cravings, having fun and regaining your health in early recovery. Clients can take advantage of the equipment in our on-site fitness center or jog or walk around our two-acre campus. Start your path to recovery and lifelong sobriety by contacting us today.