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Exercise-and-addiction-recoveryRecovering from addiction isn`t easy, it`s a hard-fought battle that requires determination and strength. These two qualities are also necessary when establishing an exercise routine. Working out or participating in physical activity can play an integral part in one`s efforts to stay sober, helping to heal the body and mind, while also filling up one`s time with a healthy outlet.

According to a study of patients being treated for substance abuse published in Mental Health & Physical Activity, “Exercise can lead to a sense of accomplishment; feeling stronger; improved health; and increased confidence in staying clean and sober.”

Exercise gives you a natural high that is far more beneficial for your body than drugs or alcohol. After a vigorous sweat session, endorphins are released throughout the body and produce increased energy, reduced stress, a better mood and clearer thinking – all of which arm you with the tools necessary to maintain your sobriety.

Whether your personality gravitates towards strength training, swimming, cycling, yoga, running, joining a sports team or walking, getting your body moving has multiple benefits for aiding your road to recovery.

Here are a few other reasons why exercise can help with addiction recovery:

Relieve and Reduce Stress

Exercise alleviates both physical and psychological stress. We build tension in our bodies by sitting at desks all day without moving or planting ourselves in front of the television for long periods of time. Not to mention, the strain we put on our necks when we are constantly looking down at our phones, texting or perusing the web or tilting our heads forward to read screens.

While these examples are mainly physical strains we put on our body, tension also arises from stressful situations where we literally ‘tense’ up in reaction to an unpleasant event or thought. They say we carry our ‘issues in our tissues’.

By moving our bodies, this tension can be alleviated and allows us the opportunity to direct our attention away from negative emotions. By focusing on what we’re doing when we exercise, we expend pent us physical and emotional energy that otherwise may lead to unhealthy means of escaping.  

Meditate in Motion

We’ve written before about the benefits of meditation for addiction recovery and exercise provides a kind of moving meditation where the participant is focused solely on the task at hand. Through exercise, our thoughts become focused on our own well being allowing us to dismiss negative thoughts temporarily.

Our concentration on physical movement, allows us to experience the psychological and emotional benefits of meditation – being in the moment here and now. Most people post-workout feel rejuvenated and optimistic because… 

Exercise Naturally Increases Feel-Good Vibes

During exercise, our body releases endorphins which create a natural high. In fact, these feel good hormones are the same endorphins released in the body when abusing toxic substances. The difference is however, that using drugs or alcohol causes imbalances that interfere with our ability to feel pleasure, happiness, and satisfaction.

Exercise and dedicated physical training during recovery helps reintroduce natural levels of endorphins into the body. This helps us feel better and also re-teaches the body that it is capable of self-regulating the brain and mood in healthy and fully natural ways. 

Addiction is known to disrupt many of our body’s natural processes including circadian rhythms which profoundly influence our sleep cycle. As the body returns to a healthier and balanced state, exercise also helps to also restore a normal sleep cycle. When the body is well-rested, it heals faster. A good night’s rest also means a better mood and better functioning the next day.

Build Confidence

People who exercise regularly report increased feelings of self-confidence and reduced anxiety and depression. Endorphins clearly play a part here and through exercise, our bodies regulate and re-calibrate themselves in a healthy way.

Like any new habit, the more you do it – the better you get at is. As you physically grow stronger and witness your body transform, feelings of pride, accomplishment, and self-worth arise.  Rightly so!

As fitness goals are achieved, you realize both the physical and mental health benefits of exercise. This knowledge of increased strength and competence can extend to all areas of our lives, including the ability to meet the challenges that come up in recovery head-on.

Fill Your Time

Exercise requires time. Prioritizing physical activity means reserving a time slot in your schedule to focus on yourself. Whether its going to the gym or going for a run or whatever exercise you decide to commit to – this simple act of filling your time with a healthy activity is part of the self-care that is essential for a successful recovery.

Rather than stewing in negative thoughts or aimless musings, you get to engage in an activity that naturally reduces stress and helps your body to heal and grow stronger in the process.

So what are you waiting for? Get moving today. Start small and allow yourself to develop a routine that works for you. Try different things, enlist a friend to be your workout buddy, join a group class, discover a new community by joining a sports team. Stay strong and keep moving forward in your recovery, you’ve got this!