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Addiction is often associated with drugs and alcohol, and rightfully so due to the current epidemic. However, there are other addictions people battle each day such as caffeine, smoking, overeating, and even social media. No matter the addiction, all have a significant impact on your overall health and wellbeing, but exercise is a great tool to fight back.
lAddiction takes its toll on the body. People who abuse drugs or alcohol often have one or more medical issues due to their addiction including heart disease, cancer, and viruses like HIV/AIDS or hepatitis. Each substance harms the body in its own way.
- Alcohol damages the brain and body. Alcoholics experience diminished brain function including problem solving, critical thinking, memory, and coordination.
- Marijuana impairs short-term memory, focus, and coordination. Additionally, smoking marijuana damages lungs and can trigger psychosis for those vulnerable.
- Inhalants damage the kidneys, heart, lungs, and brain. They can cause heart failure within minutes of use.
- Cocaine dehydrates the body and corrodes tissue. It also severely damages the heart as well as respiratory, nervous, and digestive systems.
- Amphetamines lead to heart failure and seizures.
- MDMA damages the cardiovascular system and can cause nerve damage.
- Heroin and opioids slow respiration and increase risk of infectious disease.
- Steroids are linked to acne vulgaris, heart disease, liver problems, stroke, infectious diseases, depression, and suicide.
Addiction, no matter how you put it, has a negative connotation, and with it comes consequences. These consequences affect your physical and mental health, with each addiction causing harm.
- Nicotine increases the risk of developing cancer and heart disease, and has an extremely high death rate due to the health complications it causes.
- Caffeine provides an energy boost, but without moderation, withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, irritability, headaches, and muscle aches may occur.
- Overeating contributes to weight gain, diabetes, depression, and low self-esteem.
- Social media is a way to stay connected, but too much can cause a withdrawal from reality, unrealistic expectations, social pressure, and depression.
Whatever your addiction, your body has suffered. The good news is with the help of your physician, you can work towards healing. Healthy habits such as good nutrition will play a big part in your process, but there are other things you can do to help heal your body after struggling with addiction– things such as exercise.
Exercise is a great tool for addicts. Not only does it help strengthen your body, but adopting a workout routine will help bring structure to your life. Working out also provides a safe space for socialization that is free of temptations.
Unlike substance abuse and the many other types of addiction, exercise is a healthy way to relieve stress. It alters your brain chemistry to make you feel better and improve your outlook on life. You can never completely undo all the damage done to your mind and body, but with the help of exercise you can live a healthier, addiction-free life.
It’s important to start slowly; your body takes time to recover. Gentle exercises such as yoga, swimming, and walking are perfect for easing your way into a healthy routine.
This ancient practice has emerged as the trendy workout for people from all walks of life. Combining breathing, strength, and flexibility, yoga is a total body workout that also strives to help quiet the mind. Yogis are constantly working on controlling their minds as well as their bodies. Different areas of yoga– such as kundalini– focus more on meditation and self-reflection than mastering difficult poses. Another reason to check out yoga is the sense of community one gets. With classes, workshops, and training, you will get to know other people with similar interests in maintaining a healthy lifestyle free of addiction. Finally, yoga helps you reconnect with your spiritual side, something addiction specialists adamantly encourage.
Swimming is a great option for exercise because it is easy on the body. It relieves pain in the joints and reduces back pain. It’s an easy exercise to get into, and you can go at your own pace. If swimming laps isn’t your thing, you may want to try out aquatic therapy. Developed to help people recovery from physical trauma, recent research suggests it can also help with addiction.
Without a doubt, walking is the most accessible form of exercise there is. All you need is a comfortable pair of walking shoes to start. It is easy on the joints as well as the cardiovascular system. You can do it anywhere– inside or outside. Additionally, it can help you practice mindfulness. Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh advocates walking meditation as a way to connect your mind and body with the earth around you.
The recovery process takes time. Addiction damages the body as well as your spirit. By using exercise to aid in your recovery, you help your body heal itself while also benefitting your mind. Exercises like yoga, swimming, and walking help you reconnect with yourself while promoting feel-good endorphins. It also helps with creating community as well as routine in your new, addiction-free life. Whichever exercise you choose to do, it’s an effective tool that will help you lead a life without being shackled by your addiction.
Constance Ray started Recoverywell.org with the goal of creating a safe place for people to share how addiction has affected them, whether they are combating it themselves or watching someone they care about work to overcome it. The goal is to share stories of hope from survivors who know that the fight against addiction is one worth having, because no matter how it affects you, life can get better.