Even though exercise is recognized as one of the healthiest activities you can do, for some people, it seems like a chore. When you are going through recovery, just thinking about adding exercise to your daily activities may feel overwhelming. However, small adjustments to your life, in the form of regular short workouts, can carry you miles when it comes to maintaining sobriety.
When a person embarks on the path to recovery, their body and mind may still crave the feeling of euphoria produced by drugs, particularly narcotics. Exercise stimulates the body’s production of endorphins, chemical messengers produced by the brain, that reduce your perception of pain. These substances also trigger a sense of euphoria that some refer to as the “runners high.” The feeling has been likened to the sensation produced by morphine. It is admittedly less strong, but it is also without the addictive potential. Research suggests that adding exercise to your addiction treatment may boost the effects of the therapy.
In addition to stimulating endorphins, here are 6 more reasons why exercise can help you through the process of recovery from addiction:
1. Exercise keeps you busy
When you start giving priority to physical activity, it can eventually end up taking a good chunk of your daily schedule. This is a good thing. Scheduling regular workouts mean that you have to be on time, committed, and focused on the task, without any distractions or any bad habits to pick up.
Aside from this, it also keeps boredom out of the way (not to mention the troubling thoughts and daily stress that may lead a person to use again). Even if these activities don’t seem or feel like the best things to do at first, try to keep in mind the overall benefits that come post-workout: You’ll notice an increment in your energy, a better mood overall, considerably less stress, and a clearer mind.
2. Better sleep
One of the worst effects of addiction is the way it disrupts several body processes, such as the circadian rhythms. This causes the person to struggle for good sleep unless they consume a dose of whatever it is they are on. After starting therapy and recovery, the body will slowly and gradually begin to restore to a healthier state. And with exercise, this process will speed up; it will also help restore the normal sleep cycle faster. As a result, your body will heal faster when you are well rested.
3. You’ll heal your body and mind
It is no secret that a person who regularly exercises has a lower chance of suffering from a variety of diseases such as heart conditions, type 2 diabetes, as well as several types of cancer and overall greater immunity. In addition, recent research has shown that exercise stimulates neurogenesis (growth of new nerves) in the area of the brain responsible for cognition. This may make it easier to concentrate, meditate, and focus on everything you try, including your recovery tasks. Many say they feel more motivated and have more energy overall when they incorporate exercise into their lives.
4. Exercising provides an outlet for your anger
Two of the most common elements of people going through recovery are anger issues and deep frustration. And, in many cases, those feelings were part of the initial reason that person went into substance abuse. As a result, they do not know how to deal or express these emotions in a healthy way. Exercise provides a wonderful release for all the emotions you might have built up inside. You can try going for a run or go to the gym and take it out on the punching bag or lift some weights, or even a combination of the three! All the while healing yourself and getting in great shape.
5. Less stress
Stress is something you have to deal with every day, whether it is your job, personal relations, or other uncomfortable situations. They all add up to the regular tension you need to handle as a recovering addict. Exercise can be key here, as it can become your default stress-reducing tool. It will help you compose yourself and start being more proactive in regards to your recovery. It can help in times of crisis, too. It doesn’t matter if it is a major or minor one, having a workout regimen planned out can be great to carry you through tough times. It is important to make the distinction that this is by no means an escape; it merely is a tool to help keep you focused and balanced.
6. Exercise helps build self-confidence
It does not matter if you have never felt like the athletic type; there is a start for everyone. Taking it slow is the way to go. Try simple power walks for 10-15 minutes and progress from there. You can slowly increase the duration up to 45 and even 60 minutes. And you can advance from doing it a couple of times a week to doing it daily. You can even try a gym routine or get into muscle building and strength gaining; you can try Crossfit or hard endurance practices (like martial arts) if you want to get a bit deeper into exercise.
As time goes by, you will want to increase your regimen because exercise will push you to be better and increase your practices. Because, just like with recovery, each step forward will make you feel like you can accomplish even more. However, it is important to keep in mind that exercise is just another tool of the many you have available in your recovery process. What is your favorite exercise to implement in your daily routine? Have you used exercise as a tool for managing stress or addiction recovery? Share your story and let us know in the comments below.