Detox is not pleasant. Depending on what you’re quitting and how long you used, you might have headaches, irritability, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, aches, tremors, hallucinations, or seizures, and insomnia. Still, if you feel up to it, a bit of physical activity might help you feel better.
Studies have shown that people who have quit smoking suffer less from withdrawal symptoms and cravings when they exercise. It didn’t even take very much exercise to have an effect. Some studies showed that even 10 minutes of moderate exercise was enough to reduce cravings. Another study, this one on rats, found that exercise during meth withdrawal may help prevent relapse.
You may not be trying to quit smoking, but the effects that make exercise effective against tobacco cravings can work for other drugs as well. For example, exercise boosts endorphins, which make you feel less bad by activating the same receptors that opioid drugs exploit to make you feel good. The effect isn’t nearly as strong, so don’t expect a 10-minute jog to obliterate your withdrawal symptoms, but it might make them more tolerable.
Exercise also helps you sleep better. Insomnia is a common symptom of withdrawal from many drugs. Lying in bed all day makes falling asleep at night even harder. If you can get up and move around even a little bit, you’ll sleep better at night. That can help you recover faster and feel better.
If you are detoxing from opioids, you will probably feel pretty achy. Paradoxically, exercise can help with that too. Unless you have an injury that exercise could worsen, moving around can help you ache less by desensitizing you to the pain. When you take opioids for a long time, your body loses the ability to distinguish pain from normal sensations. Exercising can help you relearn the difference.
Finally, exercise is a good distraction. A little activity is the perfect thing if you feel anxious, restless, or irritable. It can distract you from your cravings and minor to moderate aches. If there is someone you can exercise with, having someone to talk to can distract you even more and the social contact might make you feel a little better too.
Not everyone will feel able to exercise during detox, and not everyone should. Many people experience high blood pressure, elevated or erratic heartbeat, and dizziness during detox. If your withdrawal symptoms make it dangerous for your to go for a walk or do other light exercise, it’s better to skip it. You should ask your doctor whether exercise is safe for you.
Smarmore Castle Private Clinic in County Louth, near Dublin was founded in 1988 as a residential rehabilitation hospital treating people suffering from drug and alcohol purposes. Smarmore Castle believes in helping patients lead a life of abstinence through 12 Step programs, detox and medical treatment, psychotherapy, and complementary therapies. For more information, please call 041-214-5111. For those who live out of the country, the international number is 00353-41-214-5111.
Last updated & clinically assessed 30 March, 2022