Individuals participating in substance abuse treatment programs often question whether physical exercise is necessary to fully recover from addiction. Realistically, the choice of utilizing exercise for addiction recovery, during and after treatment, is a personal one. However, doing so adds to significantly increased positive outcomes. Because substance abuse inflicts as much damage to the physical body, as it does to the mind, healing both is important. That’s why exercise and addiction recovery should co-occur.
Exercise for addiction recovery often makes the recovery process easier to maintain both mentally and physically. It serves as an outlet for energy that yields beneficial results and helps to add structure to routine. Although making regular exercise part of the recovery process doesn’t always come naturally, over time it can become a powerful tool. Utilizing every outlet available to reinforce healthy habits, deviates from thoughts and behaviors associated with abusing substances.
Physical Benefits of Exercise and Addiction Recovery
The link between physical health and emotional wellbeing is irrefutable. With this in mind, addiction treatment benefits from incorporating regular workout sessions that encourage the body to adapt while also increasing endurance. Up until the point of drug rehab, a majority of the decisions that a person entering rehab had made that impacted his or her physical health were often harmful.
During active substance abuse, the damage sustained through the use of drugs is significant. But even with moderate physical activity, circulatory and neurological function improved tremendously. Exercise and addiction recovery promotes overall physical health while expediting the healing process.
Psychological Benefits of Exercise and Addiction Recovery
It’s understood that learning how to psychologically cope with challenging situations and triggers is an important skill in recovery. Still, though, recognizing the impact that exercise has on the body’s healing process for overall wellness is paramount in that endeavor. Exercise for addiction recovery is especially helpful for those suffering from co-occurring illnesses.
The boost of endorphins that is achieved by even minimal physical exertion boosts mood and cognitive function. Forcing extra oxygen via increased blood flow through the body and brain also heals damage and creates new neurological pathways.
Individuals suffering from co-occurring disorders such as depression and anxiety can find added relief from their symptoms through exercise. Utilizing the array of recovery options available during treatment, including exercise for addiction recovery, builds a foundation of healthy habits.
One should always consult a physician before starting an exercise regimen, especially in the presence of any medical condition. Several factors could impact the duration or the intensity of the exercise that a person in recovery should be doing. Thus, modifications to exercises sometimes may be required.
Despite exercise restrictions due to health conditions, individuals do benefit from some sort of exercise in addiction recovery. Regardless of the activity, getting your body moving and having fun doing it, is undoubtedly helpful to a person in recovery’s health.
Exercise Adds Structure To Sober Routines
During inpatient treatment, the structure and schedule of the day is often predetermined and routine. The hours in the day are often filled with therapy and lessons, yet typically there is time allotted for fitness. Take advantage of these opportunities, by trying different things and getting familiar with a fitness routine that works for you. It will be a valuable asset after leaving the residential program.
After inpatient treatment has been completed, individuals in recovery are going to be responsible for maintaining their own routines. Having an outlet such as going to meetings, exercise, and addiction recovery therapy all contribute to a well-rounded regimen. Whether it is blowing off steam or getting pumped up for the day, exercise and addiction recovery helps maintain stability.
The comfort of knowing that a workout is always going to be there in times of need can deter relapse. Helping to ward off cravings for addiction-seeking behaviors, by instead replacing substance abuse with good health goals. The structure that exercise provides in people’s lives encourages a smooth transition from inpatient rehab into recovery and toward a long life of sobriety.
Physical Activity Reduces Severity of Detox and Withdrawal
Getting through drug detox and then staying sober are not easy tasks, especially resisting the urge to ease intense withdrawal. Because of this, any available tools that help deal with those challenges are crucial for finding balance and stability in recovery. Exercise for addiction recovery is usually recommended as the first line of holistic management when having difficulty navigating through detox.
What’s best about combining exercise and addiction recovery is the relief that can be achieved almost immediately. Overwhelmingly reported as beneficial, physical activities influence withdrawal symptoms by rendering them less painful and less stressful. Thus, at any time, having a fitness routine to turn to, even just a simple walk, prevents derailing treatment progress.
Leaving treatment equipped with a set of tools to manage stress is the idea. By combining exercise and addiction recovery, the positive effects that exercise has on both body and mind increase the likelihood of successful recovery. Completing detox is just the beginning. From there on, it is about controlling urges and triggers with coping skills and exercising as a valued tool among them.
The More Energy You Exert The Better You’ll Sleep
While the general mechanics of a workout are to burn calories, exercise for addiction recovery helps to release excess energy. In fact, it functions similar to the emotional release of therapy, but on a physical level.
Pushing through obstacles to achieve goals is rewarding, and can offer peace of mind. This in turn, contributes to regularly upholding a serene emotional sense, that allows for relaxation and improved sleep.
Sleep is essential for functioning at optimal levels throughout the day. While abusing substances, this cycle is inevitably disturbed, due to the effects of drugs and alcohol on the circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm, being the body’s built-in clock, regulates the amount of rest needed to function properly. Incorporating exercise and addiction recovery therapies serves to restore this cycle, which in turn reduces stress by increasing cognitive function.
Exercise and Elevated Mood
Not only does a high-intensity workout increase endorphins, but the options are almost endless. If one particular type of exercise for addiction recovery doesn’t feel right, there are so many more to experiment with. Some options include solitary training while others are conducted in teams or groups. Like group therapy, community and peer-based exercise activities encourage accountability and responsibility while reinforcing the value of sobriety.
Many individuals in recovery who were not sure about committing to regular exercise later found the experience exceptionally rewarding. Research even shows that regular workouts help reduce addiction-related withdrawal symptoms and lessen cravings which, in turn, curbs irritability.
Exercise and addiction recovery-based activities prove to be a powerful mood-lifting tool contributing to long-term wellness through sobriety. This is likely due to the endorphins released during exercise that produce similar feelings of satisfaction that once surrounded intoxication.
The feel-good emotions triggered by an individual’s drug or alcohol abuse closely resembles the rush after a workout. In other words, during and after a vigorous exercise session, recovering individuals get the same kind of euphoric boost that they once abused drugs to get. However, exercise for addiction recovery does this in a healthy way.
The high that exercise provides people is sometimes referred to as a “runner’s-high.” This explains why exercise can serve as an outlet to dissipate stress and allow people to feel good. Thus, when a recovering individual is feeling the temptation and craving for substance use, he or she can use exercise and addiction recovery tools to ward off relapsing.
Working Out for Stress Reduction
While for some individuals, a high-intensity exercise for addiction recovery is not practical, there are other ways to participate. Exercise activities such as yoga or walks are recommended and suitable activities for anyone, especially for those with medical restrictions. This is especially true in contrast to the harm that lack of exercise can potentially bring about.
Sometimes the thought of inducing stress on the body to ease stress on the mind is difficult to accept. However, it is possible to move past this by breaking negative associations and replacing them with beneficial thoughts and behaviors. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an addiction treatment program designed to do just that.
During CBT, addicts are able to express their stressful triggers with a professional who will do more than just listen. During CBT therapy, helpful and sober reinforcing associations are developed to replace those of substance abuse.
Exercise and addiction recovery correlate so successfully, that once these connections are made, they easily become a welcomed routine. Recovering individuals that routinely exercise even benefit from exercising by it relieving the stress associated with the challenges of addiction recovery and sobriety.
Boosting Self-Esteem Through Progress
Exercise and addiction recovery helps to boost self-esteem. Forming a positive relationship with yourself is an important part of maintaining sobriety, as it requires a level of self-respect that is often abandoned during periods of substance abuse. Exercise for addiction recovery helps to increase a person’s confidence. This, in turn, also helps give that person a more positive mindset. In combination with individual therapy, forward strides can be achieved toward the commitment to sobriety through exercise and addiction recovery.
Forming a Better Relationships With Others
One of the most difficult hurdles to move past after addiction is the ability to trust others and build relationships. Most often, this struggle with trusting others and building relationships with them is addressed in trauma therapy. This is because such struggles can be a result of having experienced or witnessed significant trauma. Incorporating exercise and addiction recovery therapies by means of group and team activities helps to restore trust in people while also making it easier for people to start building relationships.
The ability to work as a unit on a team sport or through competition is therapeutic all in itself. Being able to hold yourself and others accountable for responsibilities while working together builds upon strength of character as well.
Even though addiction recovery is an individual and sometimes private journey, it’s important to know you are not alone. Opting in to exercise for addiction recovery through team activities reinforces the importance of a sober community during recovery.
Ways To Incorporate Exercise in Addiction Recovery
Many people assume that making a commitment to fitness means surrendering all of their time to see the results that come from it. And while doing so is certainly acceptable, setting more realistic health and weight goals relieves that pressure.
Excessive stress can be counterproductive to relapse prevention. That’s why it’s best to start exercising slowly and work up to each exercise milestone, learning as much as you can along the way. For example, one way to exercise for addiction recovery is to regularly go on 30 minute afternoon or evening walks. That’s just enough to set and keep a pace while allowing other worries to fade away periodically. Essentially any form of exercise that gets the blood pumping and lungs breathing is a good thing to do.
Keep in mind this doesn’t mean you have to stick with one specific exercise activity. If a specific exercise doesn’t feel right, and the benefits are minimal, move on and find something that you find more enjoyable. Admittedly this can be tricky, but with so many options available, hope will never be lost.
During rehab, there will likely be several exercise options to choose from and even some people to show you the ropes. Remember, everyone started somewhere, and being a beginner is all a part of the process.
Exercise and Addiction Recovery Activities
There are a wide variety of exercise and addiction recovery activities. Some of the most common activities that provide exercise and addiction recovery support include:
- Weight lifting
- Cycling; either stationary or trail
- Team sports; basketball, volleyball, softball, hockey, football
- Yoga or martial arts
Again, this is a very short list among the unlimited possibilities for exercise during addiction recovery. If none of the exercise options above sound fun, there are others to try. If all of the forms of exercise listed above sound interesting, give them all a try and stick with your favorites. Either way, making exercise for addiction recovery a priority only adds to the recovery experience while designing a rewarding sober lifestyle. So while it is not mandatory, exercise during addiction recovery is certainly beneficial and ideal.
Exercise For Addiction Recovery
The beauty of embracing fitness in any form of exercise is that there’s no “wrong” way to do it. Keep options open and change your exercise when it’s no longer challenging or enjoyable. In fact, adding variety to your exercise to achieve fitness goals is encouraged. It’s even effective against reoccurring, or chronic relapse.
Many recovering individuals discover fitness during addiction treatment and never let go of it. This is especially true after experiencing the unique capacity for exercise to exhilarate, relax, and provide stimulation to a person. The calm that often follows exercise becomes something to look forward to as well. Exercise and addiction recovery allows the experience of the mind-body connection that was missing prior to recovery that people often turned to substance use to get. Thus, exercise in addiction recovery can now replace substance abuse.
Exercising Benefits Addiction Recovery and Overall Health
Exercise is good for you whether you’re in recovery or not. Thus, including it into your recovery can make a meaningful difference in the recovery process. Exercise for addiction therapy is important because of the link between physical health and emotional wellbeing.
At Florida Center for Recovery, we provide the means for our patients to participate in physical sports activities. For example, here at the Florida Center for Recovery, we provide our patients with state-of-the-art exercise equipment at our fitness center.
Exercise and addiction recovery is an exciting combination. To explore addiction treatment for you or a loved one, connect with us here at Florida Center for Recovery today.
No matter what form of exercise you choose to do during treatment and recovery, each extra step that’s made during that exercise counts and adds up over time. Besides, to stay sober one needs to care for himself. This includes taking care of the body through exercise. The right fitness routine balances the body, mind, and spirit.
Dr. Balta is the Medical Director at FCR for more than 10 years. Dr. Balta is Board Certified in Psychiatry and Addiction Medicine, Certified Psychoanalyst. As well, as having Psychiatric Training at The Albert Einstein School of Medicine Psychiatric Residency Program In New York City and Psychoanalytic Training at The William Alanson White Institute in New York City. While working in New York City, gained funding Grants for the treatment of Substance Abuse Disorders from SAMHSA , HRSA and the City of New York.