Exercise and addiction recovery are the very best of friends. When you’re in rehab, you’ll take part in regular physical activity. This isn’t just to pass the time, although workouts are a great way to kill an hour; it’s also to help you get more empowered and healthy. Substance use disorders are all-consuming, and they can turn someone from an active social butterfly into a recluse.
When you’re addicted to drugs or alcohol, your brain gets tricked into prioritizing substances above everything else. This means your lifestyle shifts to accommodate them, and you gradually stop enjoying activities you once found joyful. Exercise releases a rush of endorphins that’s actually good for your body, so incorporating it into your routine can be life-changing.
Keeping up a fitness regime is one of the best ways to support your ongoing recovery efforts.
Why Do Exercise and Addiction Recovery Go Hand in Hand?
Lots of Americans are predominantly sedentary due to stressful sitting jobs and the belief that exercise saps energy. The other camp includes die-hard gym-obsessives who make exercise look extraordinarily hard because they’re so dedicated to it. In reality, a little bit of exercise every day goes a long way — and actually gives you more energy overall. You don’t need to become a gym bunny to reap the benefits of exercise in recovery.
Here are just some of the ways exercise and addiction recovery complement each other.
Get Into a Routine and Improve Sleep
When you set aside a certain time to exercise each day and stick to it, your body will thank you. Lots of people who struggle with addiction end up staying awake late at night and then getting up late in the day. Routine and structure go out the window, and you might be surprised at how much more difficult that makes recovery. When you don’t sleep at the times your body has evolved to expect, hormones and neurotransmitters can get out of balance.
If you exercise regularly and make sure you stick to a sleep schedule, you’ll feel so much better.
Heal the Body and Mind
When you exercise, your heart pumps blood around your body faster to provide oxygen to your hardworking muscles. The heart is a muscular organ, which means it’s made out of muscle tissue. Just like your bicep muscles or abs, if you don’t get it working, the muscle gets weak. Exercise strengthens your heart, which makes you feel awesome. Drugs and alcohol are bad for your cardiovascular health, so fitness is a great way to take back control of your body.
As the old saying goes, the devil makes work for idle hands. Perhaps the most common cause of relapse is boredom. It can creep up on you without warning and put strange ideas in your head about what would be a great way to pass time.
When you practice mindfulness, you start to understand when boredom is creeping in. During these times, tiring yourself out with a dance workout or going on a leisurely long walk are some of the best ways to overcome boredom without resorting to substance use.
One of the most obvious ways exercise can help you is by building confidence. A lot of people who don’t like exercise at all tend to think they can’t do it properly. Exercise isn’t always about competition or being the best — it’s about setting yourself realistic goals and feeling great when you smash them. The by-product of exercising regularly is having a body that looks and feels great.
Meet a New Friendship Group
When you find the type of fitness that gets you pumped up, look for local classes. Fitness sessions are usually affordable and lots of fun. There are beginner, intermediate and expert levels, so you can find a group that matches your ability level.
It’s a great way to make new friends who have a shared interest that’s healthy and conducive to recovery. The more positive, go-getting people you surround yourself with, the better your chances of maintaining sobriety long term.
Learn Valuable Social Lessons
School sports tend to leave people who weren’t good at them with a lifelong hatred of anything that involved breaking a sweat. The levels of competitiveness and focus on natural talent at school can damage self-esteem and prevent you from engaging with the important lessons you learn while getting fit.
As adults, pretty much 100% of people respond to fitness in a totally different way than they did at school. You’re in a better position to actively improve your abilities and less embarrassed if you hit a stumbling block. The sense of camaraderie and teamwork you get when playing sports or exercising in a group is second to none.
Increase Your Chances of Sustained Recovery
Overall, people who engage in regular physical fitness have a higher success rate in recovery than their sedentary counterparts. That alone should be enough motivation to seek out a boxing class or roll out your yoga mat!
Use Trial and Error to Find What Works For You
It’s so important that you don’t just attempt one or two types of exercise and then give up because you don’t like it. At the same time, it’s also crucial that you find a form of fitness that gets you excited. Everyone can find a way of moving their body and getting the heart beating in a way that feels good to them.
Exercise you enjoy lets you push through a pain barrier so you can achieve workout goals. Whether it’s half an hour of YouTube yoga or swimming in the sea, you’ve got to find what works for you. The most important thing is that you get into an exercise routine and stick with it. Each day, as you see yourself gradually improve, your confidence and health will get better and better.