Exercise is a key aspect of maintaining one’s health, and it has been proven to offer many benefits for both physical and mental well-being. And, when it comes to addiction and recovery, exercise and physical activity can provide even more advantages which can aid the journey to sobriety easier. In addition to the positive feelings everybody can gain from exercise, for those in addiction recovery, exercise has been proven to have a host of other benefits as well.
Reputable treatment centres will have a gym and/or pool to encourage exercise and incorporate exercise into their treatment programmes to facilitate this. Further, because exercise reduces the chances of relapse, it is now even being explored as a potential treatment for substance abuse on its own.
What are the Benefits of Exercise in Addiction Recovery?
Whether you are in recovery or not, physical activity and exercise offer various benefits. And, there are several reasons why it is an important element for those in addiction recovery:
- Increases the rate of abstinence;
- Eases withdrawal symptoms;
- Adds structure to the day;
- Replace triggers;
- Help you think more clearly;
- Elevate mood;
- Increase energy;
- Better quality and quantity of sleep;
- Stronger immune system;
- Boost self-esteem and self-control;
- Curb or distraction from cravings;
- Stress reduction;
- Better overall well-being;
- Aids in relieving anxiety and depression;
- Aids in preventing relapse; and
- Help turn negative emotions into positive results.
Activities that Can Help in Addiction Recovery
Another important aspect is choosing an activity that you will enjoy and, to aid this, we have outlined seven diverse activities.
If you are new to exercise or have not partaken for a while then going for a simple stroll can be beneficial, for both mind (enjoying nature) and body (low impact exercise). A 20-30 minute stroll in your local park or green space can be relaxing and help you enjoy the activity.
Hiking does not need to be serious and does not need any special gear apart from some suitable shoes (if you stay of the hills and only go a short distance). When you are tired, you can always take a break and enjoy the scenery.
As a less-strenuous alternative, yoga (and similar mind-body exercises) can benefit you as well. There are many types of yoga, and you can always choose a more relaxing version. Because of its popularity, classes can be found in most gyms and community centres.
Swimming is a great exercise option that is significantly easier on the body, it has a low impact on muscles and joints. If you are lucky (or perhaps brave), some areas have outdoor pools. Simply being in water can be very soothing, but swimming does not have to mean just doing laps up and down the pool. Some areas also offer aqua-aerobic exercise classes.
If you are looking for a form of exercise that does not feel like exercise, then dancing could be for you. It is also a social activity that your friends and peers may wish to join in. Dancing comes in many forms, and classes for all types – from ballet to ballroom and Latin – are becoming increasingly popular. Many areas will allow you to sample the first class for free, so you can try a few to find one that is right for you.
6. Weight Lifting
As a form of resistance exercise, lifting weights can be both beneficial and fun. However, it should never be undertaken without advice and supervision as it has the potential to harm (e.g. lifting to heavy to quickly or to many repetitions).
You do not have to lift large weights to gain benefits. When starting out, light weights following a structured programme is sufficient. However, not only is lifting weights good for your bones, joints, and muscles, it also can help reduce depressive symptoms. If you are older, some light weight-lifting is highly recommended as it can mitigate tissue and bone-mass loss due to ageing, and maintain your physical strength.
You may find exercising alone boring, but joining a team sport can be motivating experience. Like dancing, it is a good way to bond with people and learn to form relationships. There are a large variety of team sports, including football, basketball, rugby, cricket, rounders, shinty, hockey, volleyball, etc.
The above exercise options will vary based on the treatment centre, but they typically allow individuals to choose the activity that best suits their preferences (although remember that any sort of physical activity is beneficial to recovery).
No matter what type of exercise you choose to engage in, you will find that it will aid you in your recovery.
Although it is highly important in aftercare, exercise should also be part of your initial treatment (if possible).
In addition to exercise, you should also focus on nutrition. A healthy diet serves as a complement to exercise and, if combined, will greatly improve your well-being.
However, remember that exercise is not a replacement for a proper addiction treatment programme. While exercise and physical activity can greatly help with recovery, other aspects of treatment, including therapy, should not be neglected.