6 Essential Reasons to Exercise during Addiction Recovery
November 17, 2018
“Take care of your body.
It’s the only place you have to live.”
– Jim Rohn
Believe it or not, addiction and exercise have a few things in common. For one thing, you do surely sweat a lot. Secondly, done to excess, they’ll both leave your body screaming, your muscles twitching, and you feel like you’re breathing your last. How do I know? My life before was one of addiction, and the physical and mental effects were brutal. Now that I’m in recovery, I treat my well-being on both levels with seriously more respect.
For me, adding regular exercise into my recovery program of counseling, group therapy, and medication has been the mortar that holds these bricks of sobriety together. Having been sober for over 5 years, I feel like I’m building something good now.
Exercise, for many people, may not be their favorite activity. For a recovering addict, learning to be well in rehab is one of the most important things to be doing. However, there have been many research studies on the subject of maintaining a regular exercise regime during the long recovery from substance abuse – the primary benefit being that it actually improves mental health. And a healthy mind is really the best medication an addict can be given.
Recovering addicts who exercise feel stronger, both physically and mentally, enjoy the sense of achievement that goes with it and, are far more positive regarding their ability to live a sober life from now on.
Furthermore, for those with an addictive personality (possessing certain traits within their personality making them predisposed to addictive behavior), exercise is definitely one physical need worth addressing. As addicts, yearning for and getting that buzz is the be-all and end-all. However, exercise can provide its own buzz, a natural high if you like, of healthy endorphins.
An addict’s brain during the first months of recovery still craves the chemical high from before. Replacing that high with a natural, healthy substitute is a great way to temper the cravings being felt.
The aim of this article is to provide you with 6 essential reasons for incorporating a regular exercise regime into your new life of drug addiction recovery. By doing so, you’ll feel better, think better, sleep better, and, simply, be better.
Here are your 6 essential reasons to exercise during addiction recovery:
1. Body & Mind
The long-term physical and mental effects of substance abuse have been well documented. As an addict, you don’t want to hear about how your addiction has made you. All you want is to just feel better. Exercise can help get you there.
Not only does it provide the physical benefits for any average person walking the street, for those who have suffered at the hands of addiction, there is something else. Research shows that regular exercise will physically repair your brain. Seriously. It does this by increasing your number of new nerve connections that are produced there.
Not all of the damage inflicted by substance abuse will be repaired by exercise and sobriety, but much can be.
Physical activity is a brilliant way to de-stress, whatever the issue you’re confronted by. When it comes to dealing with a crisis, addicts are not best equipped, to put it politely. However, as a recovering addict, exercise is your tool to weather any storm that is looming on your horizon. It will calm you, compose you, and be something that is positive, a step forward, for you as a person.
It can also act as your crutch when you are experiencing a particular crisis, maintaining your long-term outlook on sobriety during short-term problems. Furthermore, and I can testify to this, it’s a great way to deal with every recovering addict’s nightmare – anger. Dealing with this and the accompanying frustration, that lack of control, is a big danger for those in recovery. Exercise is your outlet.
Quality sleep is an essential part of being healthy, both mentally and physically (it’s why sleep deprivation is used as a method of torture). Addiction makes all of your body’s normal processes go absolutely haywire, and sleep is the most common.
Exercise will not only result in you feeling naturally tired, but it’ll put your mind at rest too. No-one sleeps when their mind is racing.
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, self-confidence, so important in the recovery from substance abuse, immediately starts to return to you when you start exercising. As the saying goes, “practice makes perfect.”
You are not going to be an Olympic champion at any point in your exercise regime, so just don’t worry about being a quick runner, be the runner you are meant to be. Exercise comes in many forms, from running to housework to walking the dog. Being active is the key, and that sense of accomplishment will boost your level of self-confidence.
Having an exercise regime, whatever form that takes, will eat up a certain length of time during your day, so scheduling your activity will get it to work for you. Beginning and ending at a particular time puts you in control.
Secondly, for someone who has spent a great deal of time in the past just waiting for that next fix, time spent exercising is time well spent, not time wasted. Just focus on the positive stuff it brings you, such as a new clarity to your thinking, more energy, less stress, and just the feeling of being happier in yourself.
Something not often mentioned by articles of a similar nature is the variety that exists when it comes to choosing what exercise to try. Different exercises have different or varying levels of physical engagement. For example, an hour of yoga is not going to come close to an hour in the gym, in terms of the effort required.
However, they both have their own distinct purpose, and it’s your choice how you wish your exercise to benefit you. In other words, it’s not all about buying a pair of Nikes and hitting the local park at some ungodly hour of the morning.
Time to Take to the Road…
Hopefully, these 6 essential reasons will be your prompt to look at your physical and mental well-being and take (slightly rigorous) steps to improve your overall health. The benefits are clear: body and mind begin to heal, stress management takes care of itself, you sleep so much better, self-confidence increases, your time is put to good use, and, not only are you exercising, you’re doing an activity you enjoy.
Is there something that you think should be included in this article? A particular benefit of exercising not mentioned? Is there an activity that you’ve taken up recently that you’d like to share? If so, please feel free to leave a comment below.
And while you contemplate which new activity you are going to take up, it’s time for me to grab the leash and let Diva strut her stuff around the local neighborhood.