Addiction recovery is perhaps the most difficult goal you will ever set for yourself. To succeed in your recovery, you must do a great deal more than merely give up using drugs or alcohol. You must also rebuild your life and set positive goals and create positive habits.
As the English poet John Dryden once said, first you create your habits, and then your habits create you. No other area could this be more apt than addiction recovery.
One of the most effective habits you could establish in your recovery is regular and structured exercise. This helps you to restore your physical health and balance in an area that was probably acutely damaged by your addiction.
For many people in recovery, exercise is a form of therapy. It’s unquestionably a form of self-help that’s cheap and easy to implement. All you need is motivation, the right attitude and a liberal dose of structure. Joining a club associated with your exercise of choice is particularly effective because you are most likely to stick to your exercise when it is conducted in social settings.
Exercise benefits you from both a physical and psychological standpoint. In fact, we feel the psychological benefits derived from exercise often outpace physical benefits.
When you exercise, the brain releases a number of hormones linked to mood such as dopamine and endorphins. It’s thus not difficult to understand why exercise yields so many positive psychological benefits for those who are willing to give it a go.
If you ignore exercise, you truly put your recovery at risk. Exercise affects the mind, body and spirit. Lack of exercise means you are more likely to experience stress and depression, all of which are well-known causes of relapse.
In the UK, many drug and alcohol rehab clinics formally recognise the importance of exercise in helping their clients sustain their recovery once they have left the rehab clinics full-time care. For this reason, rehab clinics have begun to introduce an element of exercise into their aftercare programmes.
When you exercise, the brain releases endorphins. This hormone is known to regulate mood in a positive manner. Endorphin release is pleasurable, and your brain is wired to repeat activities that cause pleasurable feelings. This is how it’s possible for positive addictions to arise in the first place and in a manner that’s akin to how negative addiction arises.
When you regularly exercise, your waistline will reduce. Blood pressure will reduce and you will feel physically stronger. In short, exercise improves your overall level of physical health. The chances of developing life-threatening illnesses decreases and your life expectancy will also increase. You will experience greater levels of energy throughout the day and the quality of your sleep will also improve at night.
Below, we summarise the benefits you will attain for your recovery by investing in a regular exercise regime:
Whilst it’s true that all forms of physical exercise will be beneficial for your recovery, outdoor activities, yoga and aerobics are commonly touted as the most suitable forms of exercise for people in recovery.
Yoga is beneficial because it helps you to reduce stress. Yoga also incorporates meditative practice that’s known for helping you both fight off negative thoughts and improve your focus.
Aerobics is suitable for people in recovery because it improves your overall health.
‘Outdoor’ exercise is beneficial because you are able to reconnect with nature. Exposure to the sun will also increase your production of Vitamin D.
The type of exercise you engage in should also suit your age and level of fitness. It’s also important to choose an exercise that you enjoy.
For instance, if you do not enjoy running, there is no point taking up long-distance running because your disdain for this type of exercise will likely cause you to lose interest at some point or another. You would be better taking up a lower-intensity exercise such as pilates, yoga or walking.
We highly recommend you join a local club that specialises in your exercise of choice. For instance, if you enjoy running, we recommend you join a local running club, rather than merely going it alone. If you look hard enough, you will likely find a group for most exercise types.
Joining a club helps to hold you to account in actually turning up and taking part in your exercise. The club atmosphere is typically supportive and this will encourage you to stick to your new-found hobby.
When it comes to sticking to and progressing in your exercise selection, never underestimate the power of peer support.