Exercise + Substance Abuse Prevention

Thursday, November 2, 2017 | By JP Emerald Coast

Anecdotally, we hear a lot about how great exercise can make you feel and look. And we are well aware of it being an important component in reducing heart disease and promoting overall health and wellness. With all of the benefits being floated around, it seems like it would be a no-brainer to make time for your daily sweat. But time and again, one of the top reasons people cite for not working out is “not enough time.” Think of how much time a high-schooler might spend on social media. Probably more than 20 minutes a day, right? It could actually be up to nine hours! But only 19% of high schoolers say they spend 20 minutes or more a day being physically active. Convincing teens to trade in just a fraction of media time for some physical fitness has more benefits than many people actually know about.

More Exercise Means Less Substance Abuse

Through NIDA’s work in Monitoring the Future, we are learning more about exercise as an effective tool for drug use prevention. Research of high school students shows that more exercise is associated with lower use levels of alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana. And increased physical exercise through participation in sports, athletics, or general exercise is not only related to significantly lowering substance use frequency at the high school age population. Encouraging physical activity among adolescents and young adults appears to relate to lower substance use levels throughout early adulthood.

The reasons why exercise is associated with lower drug use is still not fully known, but evidence is suggesting interactions with dopamine in the brain’s reward pathway may be a key aspect. Most types of rewards, like completing a workout, increase the level of feel-good dopamine in the brain. Many addictive drugs trigger “feel good” responses in addicts by increasing dopamine activity in the brain, but exercise is a natural (and healthy!) way to get that “high.”

Exercise and Substance Abuse Treatment

Exercise is becoming increasingly popular as a treatment component at many residential treatment locations. When combined with CBT, it is already shown to be effective at helping people quit cigarette smoking. Utilizing the dopamine buzz effect and reducing stress with exercise, it is a valuable tool to go hand in hand with treating the psychosocial needs that CBT can address. The efficacy of exercise as treatment in smoking gives hope for utilizing physical exercise as an effective tool for treating other forms of substance abuse as well. 

Physical Fitness at JourneyPure Emerald Coast

Through facilitating different experiential therapies and encouraging our patients to hit the gym three times a week, JourneyPure Emerald Coast applies the understanding that exercise is a cornerstone for living a healthy lifestyle. Patients receive hands-on support to develop healthier physical habits as well as individualized nutrition planning and care. And because we know recovery doesn’t end when you leave our doors, we created JourneyPure Coaching™ to provide our clients with ongoing support for real-world living. Our modern day coaching platform keeps patients connected for a full year post-treatment, giving them the best chance at long-term recovery.

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