Physical Fitness in Recovery
Physical Fitness in Recovery
The information presented on this page is a general overview and is offered here as a comprehensive resource. At Ampelis Recovery, our programs are customized and tailored to the individual’s needs. Specific details below that cover treatment protocols may not reflect the protocols used for our clients.
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- How Behavior Affects Addiction
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- Engaging and Meaningful Work
- How Engagement and Meaning Protect Against Addiction
- Removing the Stigma of Addiction from Corporate Culture
- Drug-Free Workplaces vs. The Americans with Disabilities Act
- How First-Class Addiction Treatment Stops the Cycles of Relapse
What is Addiction?
Addiction is a disease where someone experiences powerful cravings for an activity or substance. It rewires the reward center of the brain and causes several long-term health problems. In terms of substance abuse, it affects over 35 million people globally.1 Annual addiction costs to states and governments reach billions of dollars.2 However, the true cost of addiction is the years it takes off someone’s life, the relationships it ruins, and the minds it degrades.
From a psychological standpoint, a person can have an addiction or unhealthy obsession with anything. However, certain substances such as alcohol, cocaine, opioids, and more all have naturally addictive properties. Typically, those properties involve disrupting natural brain chemistry and causing excess dopamine, thus creating euphoria.3
Signs and Symptoms of Different Types of Addiction
The specific signs and symptoms of addiction will vary for everyone, as will the intensity of their symptoms. However, some substances cause particular symptoms.
- Meth Mouth: Characterized by poor dental hygiene such as green or rotting teeth. This symptom occurs after long-term meth use.4
- Yellow Skin: Often diagnosed as jaundice, yellow skin occurs in deep stages of alcoholism. The symptoms occur due to the effect of long-term alcohol abuse on the liver.5
- Jittery: Sudden spurts of jitteriness can occur from cocaine use. As a stimulant, it can overexcite neurons in the brain, causing uncontrollable physical jerking.
- Red Eyes: Red, glazed eyes can be a sign of marijuana use. This symptom occurs because cannabis widens the blood vessels
Other general symptoms associated with drug and alcohol abuse include:
- Sudden changes in behavior
- Lack of personal hygiene
- Disappearing for hours
- Poor sleep
- Memory loss
One of the most significant aspects of a person that addiction changes is their behavior. A person will begin to prioritize their addiction over their work and home life.
How Can Addiction Harm the Body?
Addiction negatively impacts virtually all aspects of life, including:
- Addiction burns out your brain’s supply of dopamine and serotonin (the “happy” chemicals). Additionally, it disrupts several other natural chemicals and hormones in your body, all with varying effects. Over-production of certain biological compounds like cortisol (the stress hormone) causes severe depression, anxiety, suicidal ideation, brain fog, and memory issues.6
- Long-term addiction also impacts your brain’s ability to learn, heal, and adapt to new situations. 6 The negative mental symptoms of addiction often lead to further substance use as a form of self-medicating.
- Another factor is the shame and social ostracization felt by many clients with substance dependency. People with dependency are often negatively perceived, which can lead to low self-esteem and confidence. It is also worth noting that clients with mental illnesses are far more likely to use drugs and alcohol.
- Learning to live with a clear mind and cope with life stressors is an essential skill for recovery. A mentally healthy person can fend off cravings and think things through – all of which make treatment and life-long recovery all the easier.7
Addiction affects the body on two distinct levels.
- Internal: Alcohol and substance use weakens the body’s ability to absorb nutrients, fight infection, and heal. Addiction disrupts the product of glucocorticoid, a key chemical in immune system regulation.8 Moreover, intravenous drug users have an increased risk of bacterial infection from needle sharing.
- External: Addiction deprives the body of fundemantal nutrients it needs to maintain muscle, bone, hair, skin, and nails – resulting in thin hair, brittle bones, and more. Another factor in the physical decline is that many people who struggle with substance use have a poor diet and lack an exercise routine.
Components of Physical Fitness
There are five components of fitness. It is easy to become overwhelmed trying to shoehorn all components into one workout, but it can help to work specific areas on set days to give your body a chance to heal. Physical health is greatly improved by adding even one of the components of fitness to fit into your daily life.
- Body Mass
Physical fitness has serious health benefits for everyone, especially for those in addiction recovery. Here’s how a person in recovery benefits from exercise.
How Physical Fitness Helps the Body
Physical fitness improves the immune system, libido, metabolism, and of course, outward appearance. Exercise also improves blood flow which, in turn, protects someone from heart, liver, and kidney disease. Additionally, committing to a set workout can improve chronically painful or weak joints. Even just stretching can boost physical performance and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.9
How Physical Fitness Helps the Mind
Many of the mental benefits of physical fitness come from the chemicals the brain releases, including dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins. All these chemicals improve one’s mood, cognitive function, and memory. Using components of fitness to combat depression and anxiety requires commitment and time, but the long-term benefits directly contribute to a longer, happier life.10
Benefits of Physical Fitness in Recovery
Other ways in which physical fitness greatly helps someone in recovery include that fitness:
Reduces Cravings: Exercise helps distract someone from cravings and breaks the connection the brain has with the addictive substance and reward. Even mild cardio can diminish the urge to relapse.11
Eases Withdrawal Symptoms: Exercise reduces the painful symptoms of withdrawal and assists in retraining the brain to find enjoyment with healthier hobbies.12
Improves Sleep: Physical fitness wears you out. Putting your energy to good use through running, lifting weights, etc. helps your body set an internal sleep schedule that benefits clients with insomnia or other sleep disorders.
Prompts Social Connections: Getting a workout buddy, joining a class, or other communal fitness activities are great ways to make new, healthier connections while also improving your physical health. The gym or the local hiking trail is as good a reason as any to get out and get moving.
Examples of Healthy Physical Fitness Activities for Recovery
Any type of exercise can improve your body and lower the chance of relapse. These are some of the most accessible workouts you can commit to during addiction recovery:
Physical health is a priority for almost all types of workouts. It is important to find one that you can enjoy and take an interest in. It is not always easy to work out, but if you find yourself dreading the activity then it may be time to explore other types of exercise.
When Is Physical Fitness Encouraged in Addiction Recovery?
Any modern addiction recovery clinic will encourage the benefits of physical fitness. Exactly when you work out depends on either the program schedule or your preference. Studies have shown that working out in the morning improves productivity and sleep quality. However, studies have also proven that working in the evening is best for physical performance.13
Take your pick but try and stick to it. Think of the components of fitness as lifetime tools to combat and suppress dependency. The benefits of physical fitness can drastically improve a client’s life and set them up to be more productive, adaptable people.