Endorphins (contracted from “endogenous morphine”[note 1]) are endogenous opioid neuropeptides in humans and other animals. They are produced by the central nervous system and the pituitary gland. The term implies a pharmacological activity (analogous to the activity of the corticosteroid category of biochemicals) as opposed to a specific chemical formulation. It consists of two parts: endo- and -orphin; these are short forms of the words endogenous and morphine, intended to mean “a morphine-like substance originating from within the body”. The class of endorphin compounds includes α-endorphin, β-endorphin, γ-endorphin, σ-endorphin, α-neo-endorphin, and β-neo-endorphin. The principal function of endorphins is to inhibit the transmission of pain signals; they may also produce a feeling of euphoria very similar to that produced by other opioids.
There’s medical evidence that exercise releases endorphins and can help ease depression. Exercise is routinely advised in addiction recovery. During addiction, the brain’s natural feel-good chemicals are altered, therefore, often in early recovery, depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and just a general “bad” feeling make it difficult to avoid relapse. Because addiction treatment is mainly about relapse prevention, we advise our clients to use every tool available to avoid relapse.
Unless there are physical restrictions which prevent a person from exercising, it’s important in recovery to develop a regular routine of physical activity — walking, running, Yoga, weight lifting, swimming, etc. Not only does physical activity release endorphins, it’s good for the heart, it builds and tones muscle and it can boost self-esteem. Just the regular act of doing something healthy gives a person a sense of accomplishment. Below is from Addiction.com:
In addition to the chemical changes happening in your brain when you exercise, working out can mitigate the negative effects of giving up your substance(s) or behavior(s), which include sleep troubles, anxiety and depression and weight gain. Simply by improving your overall health and well-being, regular exercise builds your body back up and gives you a healthy way to release difficult or pent-up emotions, including anger, sadness and frustration.
I can personally attest to the benefits of exercise. I always feel better after a good workout. (When there’s a question about the physical ability to exercise, always consult a physician.)