Fitness in Addiction Recovery

Fitness in Addiction Recovery

Authored by Pin Ng

Edited by Alexander Bentley

Reviewed by Dr Ruth Arenas Matta

The Importance of Fitness in Addiction Recovery


The mind and body work as one. When one of the two elements is out of sync, then the other is thrown off. Addiction doesn’t just affect the body. In the past, it was believed that addiction was physical, yet over years of research, it was discovered that addiction also affects mental health.


In fact, mental health can often cause addiction. Individuals suffering from anxiety, depression, or PTSD can turn to drugs and/or alcohol to help them cope with their issues.


Addiction’s toll on the mind and body can be helped with fitness training and exercise. The brain releases endorphins that can make you feel great mentally, while also improving your body physically.


Why should you add a fitness routine to your addiction recovery?


Regular exercise and fitness training during addiction recovery may be instrumental in your path to sobriety. You shouldn’t underestimate the importance of exercise as a regular routine can keep your mind focused on what matters most.


Combining a regular fitness routine with treatment provides you with goals. It also gives you the chance to fill up spare time that could send you spiraling out of control. Whether you are recovering from addiction or not, exercise has many benefits. It is often prescribed to individuals struggling with mental health problems. It can inspire self-esteem and make you feel rewarded.


A regular fitness routine doesn’t have to be elaborate. You don’t have to buy a membership at a fitness center or begin running marathons. Regular exercise can include walking, yoga, Pilates, light weight workouts, or even doing an at-home work out with a celebrity fitness trainer on YouTube. It doesn’t take much to get the body moving.

The benefits of regular fitness and exercise activities during addiction recovery


There are myriad of benefits to having a regular fitness and exercise routine during addiction recovery. One issue that recovering addicts experience is negative thoughts. Whether this is due to longstanding mental health issues or no longer having drugs to turn to, negative thoughts can consume you.


The good news is that fitness and exercise routines can help you move past these negative thoughts. The positive results produced by exercise can help you stop dwelling on negativity. There are some proven benefits to exercising during addiction recovery. These include:


  • Energy increase


Addiction recovery can zap your energy and leave you feeling fatigued. Exercising can increase those lost energy levels, even though you are fitness training. Swimming, cycling, running, and other fitness activities actually build energy. The old cliche says: “Energy builds energy.”


  • Stress reduction


You may have turned to drugs and/or alcohol due to struggling to cope with stress. Well, the good news is that exercise helps reduce stress. Stress can lead to a drug or alcohol relapse. Exercise releases endorphins that help you fight stress and stay in a positive mood.


  • Improved moods


When your stress is lower, your moods are much better. Addiction recovery can cause mood swings and changes. These mood swings are caused by the body trying to adapt to living without drugs and/or alcohol. The brain will produce endorphins when you exercise and release these throughout the body. Your mood will improve with feelings of happiness. It is claimed that just 30 minutes of exercise each day can change your mood for the better.


  • Sleep better


Recovery can cause issues with sleep. This is a common problem that recovering addicts report. Substance abuse may even start in some individuals as a way to combat insomnia. Sleep quality and length can be improved thanks to regular fitness training.


  • Improved immune system


There is a host of health issues caused by being stationary. A rogue’s gallery of diseases caused by a lack of movement includes stroke, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, vagus nerve complications, depression, and osteoporosis. Exercise can prevent or lessen the likelihood of these issues occurring.


  • Stop a relapse


One of the most important aspects for recovering addicts is exercise’s ability to potentially stop a relapse from happening. Studies have found that the abstinence rate in recovering addicts is as high as 95%. That is an incredible figure and it is produced by regular fitness routines. Exercise can reduce anxiety, depression, and stress, resulting in individuals no longer turning to drugs and alcohol.

What are the best exercises for recovery?


Everyone is different and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to picking out the best exercise for recovery. Just like there are different recovery programs, there are different fitness and exercise routines for individuals.


Some of the most popular may include:


  • Yoga
  • Cardio
  • Walking
  • Hiking
  • Running
  • Swimming
  • Weight training
  • Team Sports
  • Climbing


What else can fitness and exercise provide?


There is so much more to fitness and exercise during recovery. Studies continue to show the importance of fitness and exercise, and how it helps individuals improve their lives. One of the great aspects of exercise is that it offers individuals structure. It can reduce cravings by providing a schedule. Whether you sign up to a gym, fitness classes, or keep your own schedule at home, the routine exercise provides is powerful. By setting your workout or exercises at specific times, you can organize your day around it.


By exercising with other individuals, you find like-minded people looking to improve their mental and physical health. There are a variety of fitness and exercise groups that can be found online. Free and membership groups can be found, and these can help motivate you to stay on track. You may even be able to find a group of other individuals recovering in your area.

The importance of fitness and exercise


Research suggests that 60% of individuals recovering from drug and/or alcohol addiction will relapse within the year. There are so many reasons individuals relapse, yet oftentimes, a relapse can be prevented.


Regular exercise and fitness routines enables you to lessen the chances of a relapse. Exercise is a powerful tool that improves both the mind and body. No longer will drugs and/or alcohol dominate your thoughts. Nor will anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues get the best of you.


As little as 30 minutes of walking a day can help your mind clear and focus on other things. The possibilities for exercise during recovery are endless. You may even find a renewed zest for life, an improvement in posture, confidence, flexibility and successful weight management.


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