Can Exercise Aid Problem Gambling Recovery?

woman jogging outside

Problem gambling recovery can be a tough road to walk, especially with gambling apps and websites right at your fingertips and a whirlwind of emotions ravaging your body. Instead of reverting to old behaviors to find relief, consider engaging in physical activities like running or yoga.

Exercise will aid in both your mental and physical healing process. It serves as a helpful distraction from your thoughts of gambling and can minimize feelings of anxiety and stress. Not convinced of the benefits? Let’s take a closer look at how regular exercise can help you stop gambling.

Why You Should Exercise During Your Recovery

You were first drawn to gambling for the rush it gave you. What you may not have realized is that this “rush” is actually a flood of dopamine in your brain. This chemical causes you to feel good, no matter what’s going on in your life. Because this feeling is so strong, you want to keep chasing it. Unfortunately, this can lead to a gambling problem.

Once you remove all gambling activities from your life, you’re left feeling anxious, depressed, and sensitive to life’s stressors. Fortunately, all hope is not lost. Proper treatment combined with exercise can help you overcome these negative feelings and cope with triggers much better.

Here’s how exercising during your recovery can benefit you:

Reduced Stress

Stopping behaviors that have become a habit is a stressful experience. These feelings of stress can cause a relapse if they are not properly managed.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by stress, it could be beneficial to participate in exercise — whether that’s something strenuous like running or biking or a more leisurely activity like walking or yoga. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, which help you feel good and improve circulation. Both of these things ease feelings of stress.

Improved Sleep

Your mind is not operating at full capacity when you lack sleep, and it’s not uncommon for recovering problem gamblers to have trouble sleeping. If you find yourself lying awake at night during your recovery, you may want to consider making exercise a regular part of your daily routine. Exercise has been shown to improve both the quality and quantity of sleep. Once you have the rest your mind and body are craving, you will be able to say no to the temptation of gambling more easily.

Greater Positivity

Making changes to your habits can put you in a sour mood. Things that didn’t use to bother you are now rubbing you the wrong way, and you may feel like you’ll never experience happiness again.

You don’t have to let these negative emotions drown you. Exercising for 30 minutes can release endorphins in your brain. This will improve your mood and heighten your overall well-being. Once you’re in a better mood, you will feel more equipped to handle the stressors in life without needing to resort to gambling.

More Structure

When you’re recovering from a gambling disorder, structure in your day is key to your success. A set schedule for your day can help you avoid gambling behaviors. For example, when you have a HIIT class in the morning, you will be less likely to stay up all night at the casino or on your go-to gambling website. Choose a form of exercise that interests you, and then plan your days around this activity.

Less Free Time

When you were gambling, it was all you thought about — when you were and were not playing. Now that you’ve stopped, you likely have a lot more free time on your hands. All this free time can threaten your recovery if you do not fill it properly. One of the best ways to reduce the amount of extra time you have on your hands is taking part in a form of exercise.

There’s not simply the time spent exercising; there’s also the hours you spend getting ready, traveling (if applicable), and getting cleaned up. Working out can easily account for two hours of your day — that’s two fewer hours you have to worry about falling into your old gambling habits.

Physical Activities Good for Gambling Recovery

Whether you’re dealing with stress, anxiety, sadness, loneliness, boredom, or depression due to your problem gambling, it’s important to find alternatives to gambling that you enjoy. It’s especially beneficial to your recovery and your mental and physical health if the gambling alternative is a form of exercise. Use the following guide for inspiration on workouts that can support your problem gambling recovery:

Go All-in on Your Recovery

While exercise will not be able to serve as your sole treatment, it can certainly help you manage your problem. For extra support during your recovery, consider joining a Gamblers Anonymous group meeting. Here, you can gain insight and tips from other people who have been in the same position as you. As always, you can call 1-800-GAMBLER for information on treatment options and additional support. Our experts will help you break free from your gambling problem. Don’t hesitate to reach out any time or day of the week.


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