WASHINGTON: Aerobic exercise can help treat drug or alcohol addiction by changing the brain's reward system, a study found.
Also known as "cardio", aerobic exercise is brisk exercise that increases the heart rate, breathing and circulation of oxygen through the blood and is associated with the reduction of many negative health problems including diabetes, heart disease and arthritis.
It is also associated with numerous mental health benefits, such as reducing stress, anxiety
University of Buffalo scientists in the United States have identified a key mechanism for how aerobic training can help the brain in a way influencing treatment and prevention strategies for addiction.
"Several studies have shown In addition to these benefits, aerobic training has been effective in preventing the onset, increase and relapse of substance use in a number of categories, including alcohol, nicotine, stimulants and opioids," said Panayotis Thanos , senior researcher at the University of Buffalo.
"Our work seeks to identify the underlying neurobiological mechanisms that drive these changes," Thanos said.
Using animal models, the researchers found daily aerobic exercise altered the mesolimbic dopamine pathway in the brain.
Dopamine is an important neurotransmitter associated with substance use disorders and plays an important role in reward, motivation and learning.
"The current work addresses the question of whether exercise can signal dopamine has been altered by chronic drug use, as this could be an important support for how exercise could serve as a treatment strategy for substance abuse," he said.
"More studies focusing on people with substance abuse should help researchers develop new medicines to integrate movement into treatment regimens that can help prevent relapses," Thanos said.