Addiction Recovery: How Exercise Helps

September 15, 2020

Between being high and dealing with annoying hangovers, the last thing on most addicts’ minds is exercising. 

Most of them don’t prioritize investing in a gym membership because they’d lose money that would otherwise cater to their daily fix. But if you’re in the recovery process, exercise is probably one of the many things your therapist will require you to start doing.

Exercise goes beyond helping you achieve an enviable physique. In addiction recovery, exercising not only enables you to structure your everyday life but also boosts positive emotions. Furthermore, it’s an excellent form of distraction and has impeccable benefits for your body and brain.

If you’re in addiction recovery and don’t understand why your therapist wants you to start exercising, it may help to understand the benefits of exercise for recovering addicts. We’ve explored the subject in detail in this article. Find out why you need to be excited about your next sweat session.

Benefits of Exercise in Addiction Recovery

For most addicts, drugs and alcohol are a means of escape from reality and a way to cope with stress and difficult times. Therefore, therapists must replace drugs and alcohol with better, healthier coping mechanisms during the recovery process.

This is where exercise comes in. Exercise is a better coping mechanism and offers a plethora of benefits during the recovery process. Some of these benefits include:

Leads to Improved Mood

During the early stages of recovery, most addicts experience the case of “the blues” or clinical depression due to a reduction of feel-good neurotransmitters in the brain. In most cases, this feeling triggers a relapse.

To help prevent a relapse, most rehab centers incorporate exercise into their patient’s recovery. Studies have shown that exercise promotes the production of feel-good hormones in the brain, thereby improving one’s mood and relieving depression symptoms.

Reduces Cravings for Drugs

Cravings for drugs and alcohol are part of every addict’s recovery process, especially during the first stages of being sober. Because your brain is hooked on the drugs, you’ll have a hard time fighting your mental and physical urges to get a fix. It’s normal. And the good news is that the craving intensity recedes over time the longer you stay sober.

Research has also shown exercise to be an excellent tool for fighting drug and alcohol cravings. One study focusing on ten heavy marijuana addicts found that the participants were able to reduce their cravings for the drug by 50% by training on a treadmill for 30 minutes every day for two weeks.

Excellent for Disease Prevention

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, drug addicts are at a higher risk of cancer, stroke, heart disease, and different mental conditions. And in the case of overdose, various drugs can easily cause death.

Daily physical activity helps prevent some of these diseases. Some examples include:

  • Store and heart disease: Exercise helps prevent these diseases by strengthening the heart muscles and raising the levels of good cholesterol (High-Density Lipoproteins) and lowering bad cholesterol (Low-Density Lipoprotein).
  • Type II Diabetes: Exercise reduces body fat, thereby improving insulin sensitivity and preventing type II diabetes.
  • Hypertension: High blood pressure is associated with high fat in the body. Exercise reduces body fat, thus preventing hypertension.
  • Body aches: For individuals experiencing back pain and other body aches, exercise is essential because it strengthens the muscles, improves flexibility, and corrects posture.
  • Obesity: Certain drugs may increase one’s appetite, thereby leading to weight gain. This continuous habit may easily lead to obesity. Exercise in the recovery process helps addicts get back to a healthy weight to prevent obesity and lifestyle diseases.
  • Osteoporosis: Exercise is also beneficial in improving bone mass, thereby preventing bone loss associated with aging.

Source: Medicinenet

Provides Better Structure to Your Days

During the initial stages of the recovery process, addicts find that they have a lot of time. You’ll find that all the time you used to spend thinking of getting high, getting your fix, or getting high is suddenly free time. If you have nothing constructive to fill this time with, it’s easier for you to relapse.

Therapists understand this all too well. Therefore, they require their patients to come up with a routine that helps structure their daily lives. Exercise is one of the recommendations therapists give. And it’s for a good reason. 

Think about it. If you had to attend a yoga class every morning before going to work, it would be an encouragement not to drink. You’d think, “I should probably not drink because it will affect my yoga session.” That’s what exercise does. It helps you find better priorities and things to look forward to.

Improved Sleep

Most addicts experience insomnia or irregular sleep patterns due to the effect of the drugs on their brains. Exercising helps improve the quality and length of sleep. Studies have shown that people who engage in moderate aerobic activities notice a reduction in the time it takes to go to sleep

Furthermore, aerobic exercise improves the length of sleep of people who have chronic insomnia. Consequently, you’ll also enjoy reduced anxiety, depression, and elevated arousal linked to insomnia. (Source: SleepFoundation.Org)

Helps You Form Positive Social Connections

When you’re constantly using drugs and alcohol, chances are the only people you meet are in a bar or your favorite joint. Addicts who prefer isolation may not even have a social life. In the recovery process, exercise helps you get out there and meet people in a sober environment.

For instance, if you’ve signed up for a gym membership, you’ll probably meet new people and make friends there. The same applies to a rehab center that incorporates team exercises into the program. You’ll meet more people in drug-free areas, which is crucial to your recovery.

Improved Self-Confidence

One of the things drug and alcohol addiction robs its victims is a sense of self-worth. Regaining self-confidence is, therefore, among rehab centers’ priorities. When they get addicts to a place where they feel confident and love themselves, it’s easier for the habits they teach them to stick. Exercise has proven to improve self-confidence.

According to findings by the University of Florida, the confidence you get from exercising in most cases has nothing to do with how good you are in that particular exercise. Instead, confidence is derived from the consistency of doing the exercise consistently.

However, you’ll also get an improved self-image when you notice changes in your strength, body appearance, and overall flexibility. Not to mention, you’ll feel better overall when your body is stronger and less prone to sickness.

Better Chances of Staying Sober

Due to all these combined benefits of exercising for addiction recovery, addicts are better positioned to remain sober. Because you’re slowly gaining self-confidence, feeling healthier, and having something to look forward to every day, you’re going to be more motivated to keep up with that lifestyle.

Final Thoughts

When you’re in the initial addiction recovery stages, exercise may seem unnecessary, and you may not even have the will to do it if you’re fighting cravings and withdrawals. But as you can see, there are many benefits of exercising while in addiction recovery. You’ll not only get to eliminate your desire for drugs gradually but also create healthy habits that will benefit your mind, body, and soul. And while at it, you get to build a great physique. You have nothing to lose!

To help with addiction recovery, contact Steps Recovery Center. Our staff is here for holistic treatment that helps the body, mind, and spirit. We have locations in St. George, Salt Lake City, and Utah County. 

Recent Posts

6 Recovery Symbols to Celebrate Your Sobriety

6 Recovery Symbols to Celebrate Your Sobriety

If you are struggling with addiction, it may seem like there is no end to it. However, do not lose hope. Drug rehab in Payson will make addiction recovery possible for you. Recovery is undoubtedly a challenging journey, but there are better things laid out for you at...

What is Residential Mental Health Treatment?

What is Residential Mental Health Treatment?

The world of mental healthcare and counseling uses various terminologies to describe treatments, mental health conditions‌, and more. One such common phrase is 'level of care,' which signifies the extent of services a patient needs. It can vary from simple traditional...

Dual Diagnosis: Mental Health and Addiction Treatment?

Dual Diagnosis: Mental Health and Addiction Treatment?

Most people with substance use disorder are likely to suffer from mental health conditions. It is called dual diagnosis. If you also have a dual diagnosis, you must follow a collaborative treatment plan that can simultaneously address both disorders. As per the...