Why Exercise Therapy?
People often say exercise is “addictive,” and there’s some truth to that. Experts say exercise acts on the brain similarly to commonly misused drugs; exercise and drugs both release “feel good” chemicals like serotonin and dopamine. They also make you want to repeatedly experience the same good feelings, so you keep returning to them. The difference, of course, is that repeated drug use harms the body while exercise strengthens it.
Exercise can also be an effective tool in overcoming drug addiction. In one study, 38 men and women drug users agreed to participate in a group exercise program three times a week for two to six months. Twenty people completed the program. Five reported abstinent a year later, and ten stated they had decreased their substance use.
While they call for more research, experts say working out appears to offer several benefits to someone trying to overcome addiction. It can:
Reduce the emotional distress of withdrawal. Cut off from the drugs that made them feel better, many recovering addicts suffer from anxiety and depression. Regular exercise can lessen those emotions so you can push past them and stay clean.
Distract you from cravings. Working out helps you ignore cravings or can at least make them less urgent and easier to set aside. The pride you feel after a workout also makes you less likely to engage in harmful behavior.
Replace your drug triggers. Exercise helps you move away from negative people and places you’ve been associating with drug or alcohol use. Spending time at a fitness center instead of a bar or club reduces your susceptibility to addictive behavior.
Keep your mind clear. Regular physical activity can help you think clearly and make better decisions.
Help you sleep better. Insomnia is a common side effect o rug withdrawal. People who exercise regularly often find it easier to fall asleep and get better rest when they do.
Improve your self-esteem. You’ll feel good about setting and sticking to a goal to work out instead of doing drugs. You’ll also feel proud of how much better you look and how much stronger you’ve become.
What Are the Health Benefits of Boxing?
Any exercise will make you feel better and stronger, but boxing offers some unique benefits. It’s a complete mind-body workout. Boxing is a demanding sport and requires total focus and dedication. While recovering addicts are bettering their coordination, agility, technique, footwork, and movement, they are also improving their strategy and focus. You will find you are more disciplined and better able to stick to your fitness goals, with more self-confidence to battle your insecurities.
Boxing in Addition to Addiction Therapy
Exercise can’t be the only weapon in your fight against addiction; it should be part of a comprehensive strategy – always the best approach, even if you don’t make working out part of your plan. A variety of strategies is best, including medication-assisted therapy, psychotherapy, and mutual-help groups.
At WhiteSands Treatment, we design highly individualized plans for our guests in addiction recovery, but research shows that medication-assisted therapy can be quite effective. In fact, a study reported by the National Institutes of Health found that medication-assisted treatment at least doubles the rates of opioid abstinence. One study found that buprenorphine-naloxone was effective in recovery – so effective, in fact, that once the research subjects stopped using it, they had a greater than 50 percent chance of relapsing after just one month. For people with opioid addiction, continuing to take methadone or buprenorphine-naloxone substantially lowers the risk of dying from an overdose. Consistently taking these medications also decreases the risk of death related to other causes.
The value of boxing as a component of addiction therapy is that it is a healthy way to channel energy away from destructive behaviors and toward positive ones – not to mention the physical transformation it can create, which will, in turn, lead to greater self-esteem and confidence. One surprising power of boxing is its ability to help prevent relapses.
Boxing and Relapse Prevention
Boxing therapy helps people in addiction recovery shift focus from an addiction mindset to one dedicated to becoming stronger and healthier physically and mentally. Boxing therapy can play a critical role in this. Boxing is all about pushing your mind and body past self-imposed limits, and when you use its training techniques in your fight against addiction, you can give substance abuse a knockout punch.
If you’re concerned about boxing’s reputation as a violent sport, don’t worry. You don’t have to hit – or get hit by – another person. Punching a bag and using other equipment can be all you need, and you’ll be doing other exercises on your own with the guidance of an instructor.
But even when you only punch bags, it’s still physically demanding work; the satisfaction you get from working successfully at it makes it that much harder to go back into addiction. There is an element of pride that comes with pushing your limits and reaching your capabilities, and boxing is a great way to accomplish your goals.
WhiteSands Treatment offers a boxing therapy program as part of our substance treatment options. Participants report feeling increased self-esteem and are much more confident in their emotional safety. Individuals also experience a better attitude toward recovery and sobriety and view these with a newfound optimism.
WhiteSands Can Help You Develop an Exercise Therapy Routine
We’re proud of the program, KO Addiction, which we offer in our brand-new state-of-the-art athletic complex and recreation center. It was developed by the owner of WhiteSands Treatment, who has a real passion for the art and science of boxing; he has worked with many nationally recognized boxers, including Erickson Lubin, Jared Gordon, and Mike Tyson. He is a firm believer in boxing’s therapeutic benefits and has seen first-hand how it helps individuals in a bad mental and physical state due to addiction. Boxing helped them overcome their struggles by providing a healthy way to release tension and stress.
Our guests include several boxers who are recovering addicts and find that practicing the self-discipline and rigors of boxing has helped them overcome their addictions.
The KO Addiction program features one-on-one training with our boxing trainers, who are also professional boxers. Three of our team members have fought professionally and continue to train our guests through our boxing program.
Boxing allows our guests to channel their energy into something constructive that will improve their agility and advance their skills. Boxing is not only a great form of physical exercise but is also very beneficial for the mind.
Perhaps the greatest benefit boxing therapy holds for people in addiction recovery is the incredible boost it gives to self-esteem and pride. We generally underestimate our resilience as humans, and it’s important to remember that our past does not define us; our addiction does not dictate who we are today. We are all capable of overcoming our struggles. When the resources are available to us, we can leverage those to create the best person. Boxing is a resource that can help us push through the pain and uncertainty that holds us back.
If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.