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A Perfect Fit: Exercise and Addiction Recovery

a person follows a computer guide doing yoga at home

It’s no secret that good health and fitness can improve your quality of life. When your body is strong and able to function well, you feel good. Exercise isn’t a cure, but it can have surprisingly powerful health benefits for those recovering from substance use disorders.

The Mental and Physical Effects of Exercise

Even if you’re targeting a specific area with your workouts, your whole body will be affected by your efforts. Exercise engages a number of systems throughout the body, which creates various physical and mental effects. Of course, these effects will vary depending on the type and intensity of the activity.

Physical Effects

When we think of exercise, we usually think first about its physical effects on the body. Common examples of these effects include:

  • Increased muscle and bone strength
  • Increased muscle mass
  • Healthy weight management
  • Improved flexibility and range of motion
  • More stamina during physical activity
  • Improved heart and lung efficiency
  • Decreased health risks (heart disease, stroke, etc.)
  • Increased energy
  • Improved sleep

Different types of exercise will have different effects on the body. An individualized workout plan can help address specific physical goals with appropriate exercises. For example, a person whose addiction negatively affected their heart might focus on exercises that improve heart health. Whatever the case, it’s important to talk to your doctor about how you can exercise safely and effectively.

Mental Effects

In addition to its physical effects on the body, exercise also has notable benefits for mental health and cognition (thinking). Examples of possible mental effects include:

  • Improved mood
  • Decreased stress
  • Improved cognitive function
  • Improved self image
  • Improved memory
  • Reduced symptoms of depression, anxiety, and ADHD

Exercise can’t replace things like therapy or medication for improving mental health. However, it can help boost the success of professional treatment. It’s also a healthy habit that’s ideal for long-term recovery support.

Exercise Is a Powerful Tool During Addiction Recovery

Athletic Fit Man Doing Squat Exercises at Home There are many benefits of exercise in addiction recovery that can add to your success. Especially alongside other treatment and support methods, it can be a valuable tool for maintaining a healthy, sober lifestyle. Here are just some of the reasons exercise is helpful during the recovery process.

1.   It Relieves Stress

Stress is a common trigger for substance abuse, so reducing stress can help prevent relapse. Exercise reduces the levels of stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol) in your body. This leaves you feeling more relaxed and in control, reducing the temptation to self medicate. With regular exercise, you can also lower your risk of stress-related health problems like high blood pressure and heart disease.

2.   It Helps Fight Cravings

One of the challenges of substance abuse recovery is dealing with the occasional cravings. Medical detox breaks the physical dependency but doesn’t necessarily stop the desire. Fortunately, exercise may be able to combat these cravings. Studies of exercise and cravings have shown promising results. In one study, meth addicted individuals had significantly reduced cravings immediately after exercise. Fifty minutes later, participants continued to report reduced cravings.

3.   It Provides Structure

Structure and routine play major roles in changing behavior. In recovery, the structure of an exercise routine can help keep you on track and prevent relapse opportunities. Once you have a good exercise routine, it can be the backbone of a healthy daily schedule. The more structure you build into your day, the more successful you’ll be at building better habits.

4.   It Can Improve Your Mood

Research shows a strong link between exercise and mood. In fact, you can usually feel a mood-boosting effect within five minutes after moderate physical activity. Exercise releases endorphins, which reduce the brain’s perception of pain and cause positive feelings. It can also give you an uplifting sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.

5.   It Keeps You Busy

As the old adage about “idle hands” warns, having nothing to do can sometimes lead to trouble. Impulsive thoughts and cravings can arise during early recovery. Staying occupied is a good way to quiet that voice and avoid temptation. Exercise keeps you busy both physically and mentally. If you have 30 minutes of potentially idle time on your schedule, plan a short workout for that time slot. If you find yourself bored and having worrisome thoughts, get up and take a brief walk around the block. One of the best ways to prevent relapse is to block temptation with something healthy (like exercise) before it can strike.

6.   It’s a Healthy Social Activity

Exercise is great as a focused, individual activity, but it’s also perfect for groups. Working out with others fulfills social needs and creates a natural support network you can rely on during recovery. You’ll also have others to hold you accountable for your fitness goals. Scheduling a healthy activity helps you avoid typical triggers, like going to places where there might be drugs and alcohol. If friends aren’t available, exercising with others who are in recovery may be good support for everyone.

7.   It Boosts Your Self-Esteem

Getting in shape can greatly improve your self image. Meeting physical goals like losing weight or building muscle may help you feel better about how you look. You’ll also gain a sense of accomplishment and control that was lacking before addiction treatment. When you feel that you’re taking care of yourself properly, it’s easier to give yourself the credit you deserve.

8.   It Can Help Improve Underlying Conditions

Exercise improves overall fitness, so it can help improve underlying health conditions. For example, if excess weight is causing knee problems, exercise can help you lose weight and strengthen the joint’s muscles. Exercise can also lower your risk for various illnesses. If you have diabetes, exercise may help improve your body’s insulin regulation. It can also reduce your risk of things like stroke and heart disease.

Freedom From Addiction Is Possible at Apex Recovery

At Apex Recovery, we help clients overcome their addictions through personalized dual diagnosis treatment programs. We treat a wide range of addictions with a variety of methods, which makes us an ideal rehab for people from all walks of life. We know how important it is to heal the body and the mind together. Clients work on their mental health with counseling professionals in individual and group therapy sessions. Our treatment center also features a gym, pool, and surrounding hiking trails where clients can get regular exercise. Our inpatient and outpatient rehab programs have helped thousands escape the cycle of drug abuse and lead better lives. To learn more about our luxury rehab facilities or ask about admission, contact us online or call 877-719-1057. Sources:

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