Can Exercise Help Improve Recovery?

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October 1, 2019

More than ever, we are seeing research confirm that exercise really is vital for every able-bodied human being. The benefits of moving your body are immense, from mental to physical health. People who exercise regularly tend to have more self-confidence, less stress, and anxiety and have more energy on average. Someone in recovery would greatly benefit from the positive features that exercise offers, especially as they seek to heal their body and mind. In fact, addiction treatment specialists highly recommend that people in recovery engage in some form of physical activity regularly to combat some of the most challenging aspects of the recovery process.

Creating Structure

During treatment, you learn that developing a routine and structure is one of the first steps of regaining control over your life. Simple things early on like visiting the clinic regularly and attending your counseling appointments help hold you accountable for your treatment process. This routine keeps you engaged during treatment, but once you’re in recovery, it’s essential to continue to stick to a structure and schedule to prevent stressors from creeping in. Commit to some form of exercise you enjoy at least five days a week, even if it’s going on a long walk or sitting on the bike while reading a book or watching TV. You will be surprised how quickly you will feel the positive effects and how easily it can become part of your daily life.

Build Confidence

If you’re a beginner and have never been athletic or active, taking on some simple physical activity is the perfect opportunity to create a challenge for yourself. Starting with walking or a Couch25K running program is a reasonably achievable goal that you can set and then smash as you quickly start seeing some motivating progress. If you’ve previously been active but lost the ability while you battle substance use disorder, you’ll be surprised how quickly muscle memory kicks in, and you’ll be back to feeling your groove in no time. Taking on physical feats is a great way to work on your self-esteem, not to mention all of the mood-boosting benefits of exercise caused by the release of happy hormones like endorphins.

Prevent Relapse

As you learn in substance use counseling, relapse is a very daunting part of the recovery process for many. The effects can be devastating even though it’s very common, and many struggle with the fear of relapse as much as with a relapse itself. Avoiding relapse becomes a significant focus of your personal growth while in recovery and exercise is an excellent outlet. Studies have shown that people in recovery who get regular exercise tend to reduce their substance use with time. The specific effects that caused this reduction or eventual abstinence of substance use is unknown, but  specialists guess that the stimulation the brain receives from physical activity could help curb cravings, provide a healthy distraction, and give the feel of better overall health making self-harm seem less appealing.

Physical activity doesn’t have to feel like a chore, so if you are looking to approach exercise as a means to accelerate your healing in recovery, remember to pace yourself and start small as not to overwhelm or discourage yourself. If you don’t want to spend time at a gym, there are tons of outdoor options available. Using your body productively and healthfully can be an incredibly impactful way to get in touch with your inner self while on this new journey.