Substance misuse and addiction take a toll on our health. Let’s discuss the importance of doing exercise in addiction recovery. There are physical, mental, and emotional benefits of having a strong exercise plan.
As with nutrition, the idea of adding an exercise and fitness routine into your life while in recovery can be overwhelming. In fact, you may not have any interest in fitness at all. Just like most goals in recovery (and life), it’s important to start small,—and by doing so you can achieve some excellent results.
There have been many studies around adding exercise in addiction recovery, and the results have all shown that it is beneficial. Here are a few of the ways exercise will not only help keep you healthy but also clean and sober.
- Exercise helps your brain. For many years, you took in chemicals that altered your brain chemistry and changed the way your endorphins worked. Now that you’ve cut the harmful substances out of your body, your brain is trying to heal. Exercise releases natural endorphins to your brain, which helps to repair the dopamine receptors. This helps make you happy. After a time, your brain will stop craving those “artificial” endorphins and will look for these new, more natural ones.
- Exercise reduces stress levels. The human body was designed to be in motion, and during our everyday lives tension builds, muscles tighten, and stress pops up in response to real or imagined threats. By moving around, you release the stress and tension that your body feels.
- Exercise makes you stronger. For many in recovery (though not all) fitness was never a priority. You may have smoked cigarettes for years, stayed in the house, or refused to engage in physical activity. Even with years of abuse, the human body can achieve amazing things when put in motion. Lifting weights makes your body stronger, allowing you to do things that were previously impossible. Going for a walk around the lake burns calories, and being in the fresh air can clear the mind. You may not be happy with your body due to neglect, but you can undo a lot of this with a little hard work and determination.
As you’ve learned in recovery, setting attainable goals is the first step in your fitness journey. It could be as simple as going up the stairs instead of taking the elevator or walking to the mailbox instead of driving. However you choose to get moving, you can do it!
An Important Note
Before starting any exercise routine, consult your doctor. You need to make sure that you’re healthy enough to begin a routine and your doctor can suggest where to start. Another benefit of this is you can set a baseline; your doctor can tell you your weight, blood pressure, blood sugar, and other important vitals. As you progress, you can re-assess and see the progress from your hard work—which can be very rewarding.
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