Physical fitness is a valuable tool for easing the withdrawal process and preventing relapse. Withdrawal symptoms can be both physical and mental, ranging from headaches, muscle tension, and lethargy to irritability, anxiety, and depression. How does exercise help with opioid withdrawal? The short answer is that it increases dopamine in the brain—which will contribute to increased happiness and reduced stress. Exercise also helps strengthen and stretch muscles to deal with muscle tension. Working out can redirect anxious energy towards something healthy and productive rather than the unwanted addictive behavior.
We’re not saying exercise alone will solve the problem. However, while it is not a comprehensive treatment on its own, working out can help as part of an overall treatment plan. If you’re already taking Suboxone® to treat opioid use disorder (OUD), you might also be looking for other ways to focus on your health. Here’s what you should know before hitting the gym.
Which exercises are most beneficial?
There is no specific exercise regime that will be perfect for everyone receiving MAT. Everyone is unique, so there are lots of opportunities to find the right activities. Cardiovascular exercise is one great option for keeping healthy and releasing nervous energy in a positive way. You can start with jogging, hiking, swimming, or cardio classes. Many of these activities can be done outside, getting you into nature and away from distractions.
If you want a task that’s challenging but slower paced, try weight training. This type of exercise releases energy in a positive way and emphasizes making progress towards measurable goals, such as reaching a certain weight to bench-press or lift.
Joining a fitness class can also help you build skills within a specific sport. For example, taking boxing or kickboxing fitness classes will introduce you to bag work before you start sparring with a partner.
Yoga is another option for working your body in a positive way. While you can follow along with a video at home and enjoy plenty of exercise and mindfulness benefits, joining a class also puts you in a healthy social setting. That positive and encouraging environment can help keep you motivated and build new friendships.
Not all exercise routines need to be strenuous. If you’re looking to get started slowly, going for walks can give you a good workout. Long walks around the neighborhood or parks get your body moving and allow your mind to focus on something new.
Could any side effects of Suboxone affect my workout?
Working out on Suboxone is generally safe, but there are some side effects that may be relevant to your workout, including: constipation, headache, irregular heartbeat, lightheadedness, and nausea.
It’s important to think about how these side effects might influence your new exercise routine. Opioid medication can impact your heart rate and rhythm, as well as your ability to breathe. Even nausea can make it difficult to work out, whether your body is struggling under the strain of increased activity, or you aren’t able to eat enough to fuel your routine. Your doctor may recommend sticking with less strenuous types of exercise to account for this. You might also want to start with short, low-intensity sessions if your endurance levels feel low—remember that you can always increase gradually as your overall health improves.
Other potential side effects, such as lightheadedness, can make you more prone to injury. If you feel this type of side effect coming on, stop what you’re doing and rest.
With proper support and medical guidance, working out while on Suboxone can put you on the path to a better future. We’re all in favor of people finding their way to a healthier lifestyle—and that includes OUD treatment on your terms.