Incorporating Fitness and Exercise Into Addiction Recovery

When you abuse drugs and alcohol, your mind, body, and spirit are all affected. Your body may become malnourished and out of shape. Your mental health may begin to suffer. Spiritually, you may be disconnected from yourself, your wants, your needs, and your desires. 

When people think of addiction treatment and recovery, they think of traditional rehab programs, group therapy sessions, and 12-Step meetings. However, recovery is about so much more. Recovery is about letting go of the person that you used to be and embracing a healthier, happier life.

Supplemental and alternative therapies such as fitness and exercise are incorporated into many addiction treatment programs to help restore your overall health. Regular exercise can strengthen your body, help you cope with co-occurring mental health conditions, and promote healthier lifestyle choices.

When paired with behavioral therapy and peer support, exercise can help prevent relapse, improve mental health, and become an important part of your life as a sober individual.

Types of Fitness and Exercise Programs Used During Addiction Treatment

You don’t have to be a frequent gym-goer or an athlete to reap the benefits of exercise in recovery. As long as you get your body up and moving, you’re doing great. The more you keep your body moving throughout the day, the better.

Holistic addiction treatment programs across the country offer both high-impact and low-impact exercise options to meet the needs of individuals of all shapes, sizes, and ages. Different types of exercise that may be offered during rehab include:

  • Walking
  • Jogging
  • Hiking
  • Swimming
  • Weight lifting
  • Yoga
  • Tai chi
  • Aerobics
  • Team sports
  • Solo sports
  • Crossfit

Exercise does more than just get your body in shape. It can also improve your mental health. Regardless of how you exercise, movement helps release feel-good endorphins in your brain that help combat symptoms of depression and anxiety. Exercise also reduces the amount of cortisol (a stress hormone) in your brain which can alleviate stress.

Benefits of Fitness and Exercise in Addiction Recovery

The various mental and physical health benefits of fitness and exercise during addiction treatment are endless. Getting plenty of exercise in recovery can:

  • Help you get better sleep so you feel more rested
  • Increase the number of new nerve connections in the brain to help with the brain’s restorative healing process
  • Help you develop a strong sense of self-esteem and confidence
  • Promote physical, mental, and emotional resilience
  • Reduce the frequency and severity of cravings
  • Reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and other types of chronic illness
  • Encourage you to embrace healthier lifestyle habits
  • Help you cope with symptoms of co-occurring mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression

You may even find that you have a passion for fitness or a certain sport, and that passion can fill the time that drugs and alcohol used to fill.

Motivate Yourself to Get Moving

If you’ve been abusing drugs or alcohol for an extended period of time, you may not only be out of shape but out of the habit of moving your body. You may find it difficult to get motivated to start incorporating fitness into your life.

While you are still detoxing, you may not be well enough to hit the gym or go for a jog. Instead, opt for something low-impact and relaxing, such as yoga or walking. While many people don’t view yoga or walking as true exercise, these activities are very healthy for your mind and body, and they can even make your withdrawal symptoms lessen!

If you still can’t find motivation, even knowing the benefits, there are some steps you can take to motivate yourself. These include:

  • Get plenty of quality sleep – You need to feel well-rested if you are going to begin your fitness journey. If you are tired and running on just a few hours of sleep, you’ll find it difficult to find the energy and motivation to work out. Try to go to sleep at a reasonable time and establish a healthy sleep schedule by sleeping the same hours each day.
  • Eat a healthy diet – When you eat highly processed and sugary foods, your body doesn’t feel at its best. You will also have less energy. By eating a balanced, nutritious diet, you will have more energy and be able to get more out of your workouts.
  • Write in a journal – Journaling is an important relapse prevention skill, but it can also boost your motivation. Putting your thoughts on paper can help you see your goals, making it more likely that you’ll put in the actions needed to achieve them!
  • Find a fitness activity that you enjoy – Some people love the gym, while others would never step foot in one. If you want to get active and maintain regular physical activity, you have to find something you enjoy. For example, look into a group bungee glass or a dancing class! High-energy groups can make workouts more fun.

Whether you go for a five-minute jog or a leisurely stroll through your local park, you will see the ways exercise can benefit your recovery. Get moving today!