While going through the addiction recovery process, we may face many challenges. First, there are withdrawal symptoms to deal with. Then, it would suddenly feel like there’s a lot of time in our hands—leading to boredom and possible relapse. To avoid idle time, some of us may resort to bad habits while some would fall into depression. However, there are good healthy habits that we can start developing amidst the recovery process, and one of these is working out.
There’s no argument if exercising is good for us. We all know it is. It helps keep us in optimum shape—both physically and mentally. Even during addiction recovery, a regular workout routine can help us maintain sobriety.
Primarily, exercising eliminates idle time and boredom. It also keeps our minds away from negative thoughts as an intense workout session requires concentration. Let’s look at the many ways in which regular workouts during addiction recovery can benefit us.
How Working Out Benefits The Mind And Body
Our journey to recovery begins by seeking professional help, which is a significant step. It could be in the form of a simple search for an addiction treatment center near me. After that, during and after treatment, we find mechanisms to help us cope. A regular workout can become part of that coping mechanisms as it’s good for the mind and body.
Mental Benefits of Working Out
The reason we get addicted is that our brain would want to keep doing things we enjoy. It doesn’t happen only in alcohol or substance-related abuse. It can be as simple as eating more sugary or fatty foods. It’s the same way a child would want us to do something repeatedly because it makes them laugh.
Drugs and substances can also have that effect, as they can also trigger the part of our brain that feels good. Feeding these habits make the brain get used to them, and it will keep on asking for more to gratify that feeling. The high that these substances give us becomes our “normal.” Eventually, our brain and bodies internally demand the drug to chase that high or the feeling of “normal.”
On the other hand, when we start working out regularly, we benefit physiologically. The brain gets excited by releasing endorphins. These are chemicals produced by the body to relieve pain and stress. Medical experts have compared them to opioids that are sometimes prescribed as short-time pain relief.
However, when these endorphins are naturally activated in the body, they don’t lead to addiction. This may leave us feeling good, happy, and optimistic after a workout—which is a normal physical activity. It boosts our mental health and helps us fight the effects of addiction, such as stress and anxiety.
Physical Health Benefits
Exercising regularly helps strengthen and develop our bones and muscles. Other than that, it can help manage weight issues which may sometimes be connected to our recovery. Research shows that over 20% of people become obese after drug and addiction treatment. Doctors believe that some treatments, such as nicotine replacement for those who want to quit smoking, may increase appetite.
For some recovering addicts, food becomes the next thing they binge on to feel a kind of “high.” This usually leads to an unhealthy obsession with food. But becoming physically active can help prevent this from happening.
Benefits of Working Out For Addiction Recovery
Studies have shown that having a regular weekly workout routine helps reduce substance abuse, with some participants completely abstaining from drugs. Let’s look at eight ways how we can benefit from working out while in the addiction recovery process.
It Helps Rebuild The Body
One thing that we do during addiction is neglecting the body. Drug and substance abuse impairs our judgment, leading us to fail to take good care of ourselves. Our brain is only thinking about getting the next thing that will make us feel “good” that we end up not drinking and eating, and exercising.
Working out may help reverse the adverse effects that the drugs have had on our bodies if we’re willing to work on them. When we start working out, we start to feel the need to eat better to give our body the required strength to do physical activities. The Centers for Disease and Prevention Control (CDC) recommends working out at least 150 minutes per week of moderate cardio exercises.
It Relieves Stress
Stress affects us all at one point or another in our daily lives. It has been said to be a leading factor in driving people to alcohol and substance abuse. It’s also a leading reason for relapses because of the withdrawal symptoms such as anxiety, nervousness, nausea, irritability, and anger that we feel. These can take a toll on our mental capacity and lead to stress.
Working out has been said to increase brain activity and that it’s directly linked to brain receptors that control anxiety and stress through the release of endorphins. In other words, it can help reduce stress. Besides, it helps us focus on something else, such as body movements and calorie count, rather than factors that may stress or trigger us into a relapse.
It Occupies Our Time
Since we aren’t spending time engaging in our drug habits, one thing we have in plenty during drug addiction recovery is time. We may find ourselves idle and time may seem to move slowly, which can lead us back to our old habits. However, working out can become our pastime activity each time we have a few minutes to spare.
When we have something engaging to do in our free time, we won’t make poor choices that may lead us back to addiction. Setting a workout goal may help keep distractions such as cravings away. For instance, joining the local community football club where we must stay committed to regular training schedules can help. Signing up for a marathon where we need to train for prolonged periods before the competition is also a good move.
Over time, we’ll have broken bad habits and built a new one in their place. Our time will be well utilized, and we’ll have made significant steps towards recovery.
Helps Curb Cravings
Cravings would be very common for someone in the recovery process. It’s that part of the brain that demands instant gratification and without discipline, it’s easy to give in. Fortunately, their intensity decreases over time.
There are several ways to overcome cravings, including using the substitute method. This is when we substitute the urges with something else that’s more beneficial. Working out can become a perfect substitute for cravings. We can decide and pick on an exercise that would be an alternative activity rather than giving in to such cravings. It can be running, walking, swimming, or even meditating.
Also, working out can help the heart pump blood quicker to organs and muscles. This is believed to help in increasing the flow of oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. The body becomes nourished and increases energy levels which can contribute to our ability to resist cravings.
Boosts The Mood
Apart from endorphins, working out releases serotonin and dopamine, which are brain chemicals that aid bodily functions such as metabolism, memory, sleep, and importantly, our emotional wellbeing. During recovery, withdrawal symptoms can have an adverse effect on our mood. This is because the body is re-adjusting its functions without the help of any substance.
Keeping up a routine can help us balance these mood swings. Dopamine may be released when we move our bodies in different postures achieved through workouts such as yoga. It is believed to cause happy or feel-good emotions which may help us keep off any substance. Working out is an excellent way of getting “high” while remaining mentally and physically healthy. In other words, working out can help keep negative emotions and thoughts at bay. It is also a healthy coping mechanism compared to binge-eating on unhealthy food.
Improves Self Image
One of the best benefits of working out is the improved physical appearance we can get. When we lose excess fat, gain muscle, and fit into our clothes better, our self-esteem could improve. It makes us feel better about ourselves. Accomplishing workout goals while battling cravings can help boost our confidence. It stamps the idea that we’re more capable of doing better things with our lives.
An improved self-image can even become a greater motivation to do even better, and we can walk with our heads held up high. Looking at ourselves and seeing how far we’ve come is also a motivation to keep improving and maintain good behavioral changes.
Because addiction interferes with how our brain reacts to things, it can hurt our sleeping patterns. Drugs negatively impact our biological clock, and when we can’t sleep properly, we’re unable to function normally. Sleep is necessary for our bodies and brain to repair and recharge.
However, withdrawal symptoms can cause severe insomnia as well. But physical exercise has been shown to improve sleep quality by 65%. Moderate and vigorous workouts are said to increase sleep quality in adults effectively. Sleep onset time is reduced, allowing us to sleep longer and wake up more refreshed. It may also help reduce sleepiness during the daytime and prevent reliance on sleep medication.
Helps Us Develop Healthy Relationships
It’s dangerous to keep the same friends while on the road towards addiction recovery. Being in the same circle of friends can easily lead us right back to old habits. To help with this, we need to surround ourselves with new friends who can help keep our minds away from substances and sudden cravings. One of the places we can effectively make new friends is the local gym. You can also join group exercise sessions like Zumba classes to meet new people.
People who are health-conscious are careful about their diets, and they keep away from harmful habits such as drugs. It makes it easier to create connections while participating in physical activities when you’re in a group. Whether the training leads to competitive sport or supporting each other and enduring through intense workouts, we can create remarkable bonds and relationships with new people.
An excellent place to start is by joining workout programs that support people going through addiction recovery. Here, we can connect with other people who understand our struggles while supporting each other to stay sober. Besides, exercising with other people can help encourage us, stay accountable, and push our limits. Above all, we create and develop new relationships.
Different Kinds Of Exercises And Their Effects
Every kind of exercise can affect our mental and physical health differently. Some activities may be better for you than others, so it’s good to try different varieties. This is the way to find what suits us best. Here are common exercises to try while in recovery:
- Yoga: Many treatment facilities include yoga in their treatment. The reason is that it’s less intense and helps send us to a state of meditation and focus. This also helps reduce stress and anxiety that may cause us to have a relapse.
- Hiking or Walking: Working out outdoors is said to increase dopamine release, which creates happy feelings that can help us battle cravings.
- Team Sports: Training in a group has more benefits aside from simply improving physical health. The competitive nature of working out in a group can help us learn to deal with different life situations better.
- Strength Training: It aids fast recovery by improving the sleep cycle with time which is beneficial when insomnia is an issue.
The Work Out And Road To Recovery
Working out plays a huge role for people in recovery. It caters to a lot of physical and mental needs that are necessary and beneficial in the recovery process. Exercising regularly can significantly help deal with cravings, withdrawal symptoms, and keep us away from bad habits. All these are critical factors in avoiding a relapse.
As we get the necessary addiction treatment, we can work out our recovery with physical activities that keep us on the right track. The recovery process is also smoother when it’s coupled with a regular exercise regimen.