When clients leave The River Source, they know they have a lot of work to do, but they finally have the opportunity to start a clean, sober life. The toxins have been eliminated from their body, they’ve had time to sort out some of their personal problems and learn new skills to help them in the real world. One important recovery tool that we include in everyone’s aftercare plan is regular fitness and exercise.
You probably hear a lot about how important exercise is to a person’s overall health and well being. Physical activity lowers a person’s risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and certain types of cancers. It combats chronic health conditions, boosts mood and energy and may even delay the onset of cognitive disorders. But how exactly does exercise help someone recover from an addiction? Can it really make the difference for you?
No Excuse Not To Exercise
In this post, we want to cover the true benefits of exercise and why it’s key to staying clean and sober. Exercise doesn’t cost a thing – aside from some time – so there’s no excuse not to put your effort into this area. Before we get started, there are a couple of points to address.
First, exercise does NOT have to be complicated. Sometimes, people automatically envision themselves having to go to the gym, invest in expensive equipment or do dreaded activities. Exercise should not be like this; it should be fun, rewarding and enjoyable. You don’t have to start with a 5K race. A simple walk around the block after dinner each night is enough to get you started.
Second, you don’t have to do this alone. If you never really exercised before, reach out to a friend or family member who can help get you started with a basic fitness routine. Ask a sibling to join a spinning, yoga or dance class. Give your pet some extra attention by taking them for a walk in the mornings. Or, replace old traditions that may have involved drinking with new ones, such as playing beach volleyball or skiing in the mountains.
How Fitness Can Help in Recovery
Now let’s take a look at how fitness and exercise can help in your recovery.
It Provides Structure
One of the hardest parts about returning from treatment is learning to re-structure your days. Too much time on your hands can lead to boredom and temptation. Exercise takes both time and energy. It may force you out of bed in the morning or fill an afternoon slot of free time. A healthy distraction is welcome at this time, so if nothing else, start with a routine to keep your days filled.
It Creates Positive Feelings
Exercise increases feel-good chemicals in the brain, which have probably been altered from the drug or alcohol use. Through regular exercise, the brain produces more endorphins, builds healthy connections in the brain and reminds you that pleasure can be achieved in safe, natural ways. In fact, fitness buffs admit that they become dependent on exercise to feel good on a regular basis.
It Helps Heal
Nothing is more important in recovery than healing. Your mind has to heal. Your body has to heal. There is no magic pill for this, either. But, regular fitness is a safe and effective way to speed up the healing process. The mind will heal thanks to new, healthy nerve connections, and the body will heal because of stronger muscles, tissues, and organs. Immunity is also boosted, so you can finally beat some of the colds and illnesses that you were otherwise vulnerable to.
It Promotes Better Sleep
Healthy sleep habits are generally lost in addiction, and it takes time to fall back into a normal, healthy routine. Fitness can help with this because it expends energy so that you can fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. If you’re still struggling with sleep, try fitting in some exercises before bed, such as yoga or stretching.
It Increases Confidence
You are probably lacking in self-confidence right now. This is a normal feeling, but you must work in this area because you need confidence and motivation to stay clean and sober and strengthen your personal relationships. Regular fitness will make you feel better about yourself and what you can accomplish. If you can stick to a fitness plan, you can stick to your recovery plan.
It Decreases Cravings
Not only does exercise take up time and energy that may otherwise be spent using drugs, but also it decreases stress. If you follow your fitness routine, you can eliminate some stress from your life and lower stress-related cravings. And, since you can’t erase stress entirely, it’s nice to have an outlet to deal with it.