Physical Fitness and Nutrition In Addiction Recovery
Key Points in This Article
- Addiction takes a severe toll on the body.
- How does exercise support recovery?
- What kind of exercise programs support addiction recovery?
- How does nutrition support addiction recovery?
- Four ways exercise can help underlying disorders.
- Potential effects of malnutrition on the addict.
- Exercise options after rehab.
Here at Elevate’s Northern California facilities (Santa Cruz, CA. and Placerville, CA.) and our South Lake Tahoe facility we do not believe that addiction is the result of a weak character, but rather evidence of deeper physical, emotional and spiritual dilemmas. To address these underlying issues, we don’t just simply treat the symptoms of addiction. Instead, alongside evidence-based practices, we treat the whole person and teach each person how to create a meaningful life without substances.
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Addiction takes a severe toll on the body, and addicts often come to rehab with an array of mental and physical problems caused by the intensive use of drugs and alcohol. While evidence-based practices such as counseling can support addicts in achieving and maintaining sobriety by addressing the mental and emotional aspects of their addiction, fitness, and nutrition programs are designed to address the physical aspect. This holistic form of addiction treatment most often occurs alongside evidence-based practices as a way to supplement and enhance their effectiveness.
How does exercise support recovery?
Fitness programs can support addiction recovery by providing both physical and emotional support. One of the most important of these is the alleviation of the mental health issues that often drive addiction.
About one-third of adults who suffer from substance use disorder also suffer from depression. That percentage is even larger once anxiety and other mental illnesses are factored in.
Addiction may be driven by these underlying disorders (e.g. The individual seeks out drugs and alcohol as a way to deal with their mental illness) or the addictive substance itself may inhibit the production of certain neurotransmitters (e.g. serotonin, dopamine, endorphins) that improve mood. In either case, exercise can help.
Regular exercise does four things:
Distracts from the individual’s problems, allowing them to focus on something positive.
Boosts important neurotransmitters by encouraging the natural creation of dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins.
Creates a way for individuals to connect with each other and find a supportive community, not just for their exercise regimen but also for their recovery journey.
Improves mental health by supporting sleep, boosting self-esteem, relieving stress, brightening mood, and providing structure and routine.
Can exercise help clients fight addiction? One small study of 38 addicted individuals found that of the 20 who successfully exercised 2-3 times a week, 15 either achieved abstinence or were able to reduce their drug use.
What kind of exercise programs support addiction recovery?
Programs that offer exercise as part of rehab often provide a wide range of options for clients. The exact nature of the exercise seems to matter less than its regularity, although aerobic exercise may have a more profound effect than non-aerobic exercise.
For example, all of the following may be available in a rehab program:
- Horseback riding
- Exercise classes
- Sports leagues
- Rock climbing
- Martial arts
- Lifting weights
- And more
Once out of a rehab program, individuals may be able to pursue even more exercise options, including:
Regardless of the type of exercise a client chooses, the most effective programs possess the following qualities:
Consistency – They occur at regular and predictable intervals over time, at least 2-3 times a week.
Length – They last at least 20-30 minutes per session.
Enjoyment – They are something the individual enjoys and is motivated to participate in.
How does nutrition support addiction recovery?
Addiction can significantly impact an individual’s ability to get the nutrients they need to maintain their physical and mental health. Both the drugs themselves and the addict’s tendency to forgo meals or consume primarily unhealthy foods can deprive the body of important nutritional elements.
These can include the following:
- B vitamins – Important for energy, neurotransmitter creation, nervous system functioning, and more
- Calcium and magnesium – Important for bone and muscle health
- Zinc – Important in building a strong immune system, preserving vision, and metabolizing proteins and carbohydrates
- Vitamin D – Important in bone health, immune system health, calcium absorption, and neuromuscular function
- Thiamine – Important for memory and vision
- Complex Carbohydrates – Important for generating energy while maintaining healthy blood sugar levels
- Healthy Fats – Important for regulating mood and cognitive ability
- Protein – Important for building muscle and preparing the body for a healthy exercise routine
- Antioxidants – Important for preventing the build up of damaging free radicals, which are often generated in large numbers by the use of drugs and alcohol
- Amino Acids – Important for everything from tissue repair to nutrient absorption
The result of malnutrition can be body-wide.
Here are just a few of the potential effects of malnutrition on the addict:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Hepatitis B and C
- Lung disease
- Mental disorders
- Heart disease
- Liver disease
- GI disorders
- Various cancers
- Weakened immune system
- Dental problems
- Nasal damage
- Kidney disease
- Vision problems
- Hormone imbalances
- Depression and other mental health issues
- Uncontrolled stress and anxiety
- Inability to produce neurotransmitters that regulate mood
- Nervous system imbalances
A nutrition program can reverse the addict’s malnutrition and assist them in preventing or alleviating related health concerns and mental health problems. As a result, proper nutrition can help an addict gain both physical and mental strength that they can use to fight their addiction.
Healthy, strong individuals are better equipped to fight addiction. Nutrition and physical fitness programs may help alongside more traditional treatment approaches by supporting the addict’s physical and mental health through balanced meals and regular exercise.
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If you’re having trouble getting your child or a loved one into rehab, call Elevate Addiction Services.
Detox specialists will know how to identify and alleviate severe withdrawal symptoms.
Our inpatient program helps each client recover at their own pace and advance their physical and mental health.
We created our outpatient program by curating the most crucial aspects of our residential program.
Telehealth is a virtual program where individuals communicate with licensed health counselors.
Each client leaves Elevate with a customized post-treatment plan, also known as a relapse prevention plan.
This page does not provide medical advice
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