Why Fitness Is Such An Important Part of the Sobriety Journey
The Power of Daily Exercise
It’s no secret that moving or working out for even a short period of time each day can work wonders on your physical and mental health. This doesn’t mean that you should be pushing yourself too hard at the gym every day, but you should be taking the time to at least stretch or take a walk daily to get your blood flowing and to stay in touch with your body.
Practicing light exercise daily can help us think more clearly, boost our self-esteem, practice better self control, add structure to our everyday routine, and help us form positive connections. Most importantly, working out regularly can lessen the effects of or even prevent certain mental health conditions like anxiety and depression.
How Fitness Can Help With Recovery
The benefits of working out are even greater for people in the addiction recovery process, who may struggle with confidence and structure. In fact, evidence shows that exercise can be a powerful and successful tool to use during the recovery process. Here are some reasons why:
- Physical activity can serve as a stand-in for illegal substances. This is because both exercise and drug use can stimulate similar parts of the brain. Working out and using substances can activate the brain’s reward pathways and trigger the release of serotonin, a chemical that relieves stress and improves the mood.
- Fitness can distract from cravings or make them less powerful. If your mind is focused on completing your exercise, you won’t be thinking about using substances.
- Exercise can help with withdrawal. Many forms of exercise can ease physical withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms are sometimes so uncomfortable that they cause people to relapse. If the symptoms are manageable, recovery is more likely.
- Working out builds your social network. Gyms, yoga studios, and fitness classes serve as the perfect environments to make friends and meet people with similar interests. Having a new network can help those in recovery avoid people or places that remind them of their past and of their substance abuse.
Because of the proven success exercising during recovery, many substance abuse treatment centers now offer fitness programs as part of their treatment services.
Exercise & Fitness in Addiction Treatment
Rehabilitation facilities are beginning to mix fitness in with their traditional treatment methods. For example, some programs combine exercise routines with MAT (Medication Assisted Treatment) to help individuals overcome their addiction and develop healthier habits. A regular exercise routine may also be combined with a nutrition plan, talk therapy, and support groups.
Almost any type of fitness can help with recovery and sobriety. Practicing exercises like cardio, walking, running, swimming, boxing, hiking, dancing, water aerobics, yoga, weight lifting, sit-ups, squats, and even gardening can be advantageous during the recovery process.
Additionally, many recovery groups now have exercise clubs that are run and taught by members of the group. Members of these groups may also go to the gym together. There are plenty of opportunities for those in recovery to work together to achieve a common goal.
Prioritizing Wellness After Rehab
It is important for individuals in recovery to still make exercise a part of their routine after they leave rehab. But remember that it is okay to start slow – you don’t need to be hitting the gym daily. It is very possible to over-do it with exercise, so be sure to take it easy and go at your own pace. Set reasonable goals for yourself and work on forming healthier habits after treatment.