Physical fitness helps facilitate recovery from drug or alcohol addiction. Many studies have made connections between exercise and positive recovery efforts, and there are both physical and mental reasons for the connection. Keep reading to find out how you can incorporate physical fitness into your journey to recovery.
Benefits of Exercise
Exercise also is a natural antidepressant and mood enhancer. For anyone whose addictions are caused by mental anguish, exercise may provide natural, drug-free mental soothing. As a preventative tool, exercise discourages drug use and alcohol abuse. In this way, exercise has a squeezing-out effect on one’s life, as there are only so many hours in the day. If you fill your days with positive experiences and activities, then there are fewer opportunities to engage in harmful ones. Exercise as a distraction may be effective, but it also highlights the importance of maintaining exercise in one’s life for the long haul.
While most medical professionals identify addiction as a disease that can be successfully managed, some believe that exercise is one path to simply walk away from addiction. More tests are needed to evaluate the long-term effect of exercise as a recovery tool, but it has been found to be highly effective in treating similar behaviors such as nicotine addiction.
Types of Exercise
Fitness is only beneficial to your recovery if it’s an activity you enjoy doing. No matter how dedicated you may be to recovery and fitness, if you dislike the activity, then you will find reasons to skip days or otherwise avoid working out. This is essential in any fitness goal. Those looking to lose weight will struggle with fitness until they either walk away from the gym or add exercise into their daily lives. The key at the beginning is to identify a workout that you are comfortable with — not just for a concentrated time period of effort, but for your life.
Walking is a sustainable activity in that it is accessible to most everyone, rarely causes exercise-related injuries, and is enjoyable to most people. Running can cause cardiovascular nightmares and add stress to joints and muscles. Gym memberships are expensive and require commitment to not only work out but also to travel to the gym to do so. While both running and working out at the gym can be effective outlets for recovery-enhancing exercise plans, a simple walk—even better, walking in nature—is enough to get you going.
Other simple exercises include basic muscle-strengthening routines that can be done at a home gym with some simple pieces of equipment. For a small investment of money, you can pick up a dumbbell, kettlebell, some resistance bands and a yoga mat, and work on strength training and stretching every other day to boost your performance.
Yoga is another exercise that benefits those in recovery. Much of the appeal of yoga is in how it makes participants feel. It is exercise, but it is also quite difficult. Each session is treated as a ritual of sorts, with breathing, mindfulness, and encouragement to carry your yoga practice into other areas of your daily life.
Once you’ve found exercises that work for you, you can invest in a fitness tracker that you wear on your wrist while working out. This useful tool is outfitted with various features depending on which model you get (a fitness band or smartwatch), but most of them share essentials like heart rate monitoring. A fitness band has an extended battery life, while a smartwatch includes added features like calendar alerts and text messages. Using a fitness tracker will not only keep you up to speed on your workout progress and health, it can serve as a motivating tool to help you on the road to recovery. When purchasing these devices, look to save by researching exclusive seasonal and holiday offers.
Is Exercise Too Similar to Substances?
Some question, however, if it is wise to replace one addiction with other obsessions. There are many cases of exercise addiction, although some wonder if “addiction” is an appropriate term. It’s hard to imagine a healthy activity having negative effects on one’s life, but too much of even a good thing can have bad effects.
Exercise is a positive activity that complements recovery. The key is to find something that will last well into the future, as recovery is a long road as well.