Exercise, according to many specialists, should be an integral part of a recovery process for someone who has an addiction. This is because it has a wealth of benefits that can be particularly important for someone who is recovering. There are a number of factors to consider to make sure that exercise is done properly and actually benefits.
1. Don’t Over-Complicate Things
Working out can be done in many different ways, from walking to running a marathon, and from kettle bell exercises to power lifting. Even low impact sports are highly effective. In fact, research has demonstrated that a 30 minute walk a few times a week provides a range of benefits. Furthermore, exercising means that you can set goals, which is very motivating.
2. Use It for Structure
When you start working out, you will soon find out how exercising creates structure and routine. You can sign up for classes, set up a workout plan, and more. Doing so keeps you motivated, and also stops you from engaging in harmful behaviors because you’re more committed to the physical activity.
3. It Distracts You from the Addiction
When people exercise, their mind is on the sport or activity, rather than on their addiction. Furthermore, you have to make a commitment of time, time which you would otherwise spend thinking about addictive substances, or even using such substances. A lot of people find that they relapse because they have nothing to do. They have often lost their job and spend a long time every day simply waiting for bedtime. When you work out, however, you spend time doing something constructive, helping you to avoid temptation.
4. You Can Set Long Term Goals
A lot of people who use substances no longer have any goals other than getting more of their substance. When you start working out and building your fitness level, however, you can start to set new goals. You may, for instance, want to run a marathon or complete a specific swim. To do this, you need motivation and time, but you also need money. This, in turn, means you cannot spend your money on harmful substances.
5. It Makes You Feel Good
Exercising releases endorphins, which are the feel good hormones. People who abuse substances often become addicted because the substance they chose released endorphins, and they then continuously chase that kind of feeling, trying to recreate it. When you exercise, you also release endorphins, and you do so consistently. It doesn’t matter whether you exercise once a day or once a month, you will always experience that same euphoric rush.
6. Exercise Heals
Countless pieces of research have shown that exercise is about more than achieving physical fitness. It actually helps to heal the mind and the body, something that is particularly important for those who are recovering from an addiction. When you stick to your exercise regimen, your cardiovascular health will improve and you may even fight diabetes. It also helps to reduce your risk of getting certain types of cancer, gives you a stronger immune system, and, perhaps most importantly, helps to lift you from your depression. Many people who suffer from an addiction also suffer from depression, which means exercise can benefit them tremendously. Furthermore, abusing substances causes extensive damage to the nerve connections in the brain, and various scientific studies have now shown that exercising helps to restore those to their normal state.
Motivating Yourself to Exercise
A lot of people who enter rehab state that they are much too out of shape, that they do not have enough energy, that they don’t have time, and so on. They bring up various excuses to stop themselves from working out. While it is certainly difficult to motivate yourself to go to that first gym class, or to lift those first weights, it isn’t impossible. Going to rehab in the first place and admitting that you need help is much more difficult, and you were able to do that!
Bottom line? Exercise can be a hugely powerful tool for people on the road to recovery. It does not mean they have to become fitness fanatics either. It is simply about taking that first step, literally, and getting moving. You will have the support of your treatment team while in rehab, but they are likely to also encourage you to make exercise an integral part of your aftercare plan. This may mean signing up to a gym, or checking out local classes near you, although even working out at home by yourself is beneficial. On the other hand, doing it in a group means it is easier to stay motivated, as well as exposing you to positive social relationships.