How physical activity helps people battle addiction

The widespread “diseases of civilization,” such as changes in the lifestyle of a modern person, the presence of a large number of stress factors, and external pollution, prompts scientists to search for effective means of their prevention. One such remedy, recognized by WHO, is to increase the level of physical activity – a simple and affordable method to reduce the risk for many pathological conditions, including metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and diseases of the cardiovascular system.

Addiction is a serious and difficult process which needs a lot of time for treatment and years to get used to the new lifestyle. All the information about addiction treatment can be found on AddictionResource — online aa meetings and rehabs database.

What studies show
A group of scientists from China and the United States led by Dr. Dongshi Wang added the evidence base on the beneficial effects of exercise with the results of a new meta-analytical study. In it, the authors obtained evidence that physical activity helps to get rid of various kinds of addiction: alcohol, drug and nicotine.

Scientists came to this conclusion after searching for all relevant studies on this problem, and analyzing the results of the most indicative of them. In total, the analysis included 22 works out of 3683 reviewed and reviews from online aa meetings. With their help, scientists were able to assess the effect of exercise on withdrawal symptoms, withdrawal symptoms, anxiety and depression levels.

The analysis allowed scientists to come to the following conclusions:

  • Physical activity significantly increased by 69% the proportion of patients who abstained from the use of psychoactive substances (alcohol, drugs, cigarettes) (relative risk 1.69; p <0.001) both in the short term (≤3 months) and in the long term (after ≥ 8 months after the intervention). Moreover, the effect on drug users was higher than that of alcohol and nicotine addicts.
  • Physical interventions significantly improved withdrawal symptoms (standardized mean difference (SDS) –1.24; p <0.05).
  • Physical exercise significantly reduced the symptoms of anxiety and depression in persons with addictions, although to a lesser extent than withdrawal symptoms (CPC –0.31; p <0.001 and CPC –0.47; p <0.01, respectively). As for depression, physical exercise reduced it to a greater extent in nicotine addiction than in drug and alcohol addiction.
  • Thus, the first meta-analysis on the effect of exercise on addiction confirmed its positive effect and helped a lot of aa meetings USA. The researchers also emphasize that the majority of the studies included in the analysis used moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise. For example, a long treadmill running with a heart rate of 55–69% of the maximum or various aerobic exercises lasting 35 minutes with a heart rate corresponding to 50–60 to 80–90% of the maximum oxygen consumption.

Among the possible mechanisms of action of such physical activity, scientists note their long-term effect on the structure and functioning of the brain. Thus, physical activity regulates the transcription of brain neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and synaptic plasticity, which is an important point in the rehabilitation of persons with addictions, since it helps to restore neuronal damage caused by the action of a psychoactive substance and contributes to the development of new patterns of behavior.

Exercises reduce the likelihood of hospitalization for COVID-19
Physical education has a beneficial effect on health, including increasing immunity, doctors have said for many years. This is also true for COVID-19, a team of Brazilian scientists from the University of São Paulo has shown. The work was supervised by Marcelo Rodrigues dos Santos. Physically active patients diagnosed with COVID-19 are admitted to the hospital less often than those with a lower level of mobility, experts found.

Scientists asked those who recovered from coronavirus infection to answer several questions. In the online questionnaire, it was necessary to indicate general information about yourself (age, gender, existing diseases, level of education, physical activity) and indicate how difficult the disease was. The data of 938 people were used for the analysis, the answers of about 700 respondents were eliminated for various reasons. So, the study was not influenced by the questionnaires of people who could not confirm that they really had COVID-19.

Then the participants were divided into two groups. The first included those who lead an active lifestyle, the second – a sedentary one. People in the first group had at least two and a half hours of moderate physical activity per week, or at least 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise. In terms of a day, it turned out about 21 or 11 minutes, respectively. People from the second category moved less than this time.

Then the researchers compared how hard the representatives of both categories tolerated the disease. It turned out that people who were mobile before being infected were hospitalized a third less often than less active patients. However, the indicators of those who were admitted to the hospital no longer differed: the infection was equally hard for those who led an active lifestyle, and those who were sedentary. Symptoms, time of hospitalization, frequency of intubation and oxygen therapy rates were approximately the same.

Increasing activity may be a strategy to prevent the clinical severity of coronavirus in older adults, the study authors argue.

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