Exercise, Addiction Recovery and Mental Health at Northbound Treatment Services

Edited by Paul Alexander

Last updated June 22, 2021

At the forefront of addiction treatment, particularly with co-occurring mental health disorders is activity-based recovery. Exercise and physical activity have long been touted to help with mental health such as depression, anxiety, and more. One reason is that exercise stimulates the body’s production of endorphins and enkephalins, the feel-good hormones in the body.

According to an ever-increasing amount of research, regular physical activity not only improves physical health but is effective at treating chronic mental health illnesses. In fact, Northbound’s clinical outcome studies indicate that the impact of exercise may be as good as pharmacological treatments for less severe issues like depression, dementia, anxiety, and even cognitive issues associated with more severe mental health diagnoses.

Not only does our research show how exercise can be effective in improving these mental health issues, but it is also now being shown to be effective in the treatment of substance abuse disorders. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that when combined with cognitive-behavioral therapy, exercise is an important and proven component of treatment for addictions.

How Physical Activity Supports Recovery:

Exercise and regular physical activity, when combined with evidence-based psychotherapies, can give those who want to recover from an AUD or SUD what they need to be successful on the road to recovery.

The impact of physical activity and exercise in supporting recovery include:

  • Improving both physical and mental health
  • Increasing positive self-image and self-esteem
  • Restoring overall health, blood pressure, sleep, executive function, etc.
  • Distracting individuals from triggers and cravings
  • Producing structure in the day
  • Forming healthy, sober living habits to continue through life
  • Gaining positive social connections with others

Experiential activities at Northbound guides clients in gaining all of these benefits through their unique adventure-based experiential activity. This proven-effective and variety of innovative adventures includes exercise and daily rigorous activity to help adults recover from alcohol or substance abuse issues.

Through challenging oneself to engage in new activities such as yoga, surfing, golf, hiking or even exploring our local beaches shoreline tidepools, clients learn new coping skills for stressful situations, interpersonal interactions which helps to build trust, improve self-image, and more.

In addition, Northbound hosts a team of experienced and highly skilled physical therapists and an experiential case manager who are willing to work with each client to create customized exercise programs. These programs address the individual’s current fitness level and work to maximize each of their strengths while building other weaker areas. Combined with therapy sessions, lifelong habits and recovery skills are built and strengthened which serve to increase chances of long-term recovery.

Article Reviewed by Paul Alexander

Paul AlexanderPaul Alexander is the founder and CEO of Northbound Treatment. He received his Certified Addiction Treatment Specialist training at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, CA, and was awarded Outstanding Alumni Service Award in 2002. Paul holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminology, Law and Society, Summa Cum Laude, from University of California, Irvine, and a Juris Doctorate degree from Loyola Law School of Los Angeles. He believes wholeheartedly in transformational leadership, organizational health and effective, fully integrated substance use disorder treatment.


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