You have probably already heard that you should exercise to support your addiction recovery, and you have maybe told yourself you’ll work on that when you get better. However, the benefits of exercise in addiction recovery are extensive, proven, and tangible, and the sooner you start building fitness into your recovery program, the better.
How Fitness Helps Recovery
Scientists have been researching the impact of exercise on addiction for years, and the take away keeps getting clearer: physical fitness can be an invaluable tool toward recovery and can help people avoid relapse and stay sober. There are several reasons for this, from simple brain chemistry to complex psycho-social and environmental factors.
The Best Types of Exercise for Addiction Recovery
The most important thing when choosing your exercise is to do something you enjoy. However, there are a few types of workout that have been shown to be particularly effective with recovering addicts. Essentially, there are two popular approaches, both of which have their benefits.
One option is to do something that is low-impact but has meditative or soothing properties: Yoga is a great example, as are cycling and hiking. Another is to go in the opposite direction, aiming for an intense workout that will get you that “high”: running, CrossFit, and HIIT are good options.
Improving Mental Health
Although classified as a mental health issue itself, substance abuse disorder is closely related to other mental illnesses, particularly anxiety and depression. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an estimated 7.9 million people have co-occurring depression and addiction disorders.
As explained above, exercise is great for your mental health, as it reduces stress. It is also proven to help with depression and anxiety, particularly when combined with more traditional medical forms of treatment. Many recovering addicts fear taking medications like antidepressants, believing they have to be “100% sober,” but if you have a mental health issue you should do everything in your power to get better, which can include getting a medical prescription.
A Healthy Routine
While exercise can get you a long way in helping you stay sober, it is only part of a healthy routine. It is a great first step, but there are other areas in your life you should also be aiming to improve, including your diet, sleep schedule, relationships with others, and how you choose to spend your free time.
The good news is that exercise has been proven to be a keystone habit, meaning people who successfully build an exercise habit are more likely to follow suit in other areas of their lives. Focus on integrating your workout routine into your schedule, and you may see that the rest comes naturally. If it doesn’t, choose one new habit at a time, giving yourself a few weeks or even months to adjust. This allows you to build a stable routine that will stick to, instead of overwhelming yourself with too many resolutions at once.
Whether it’s working on your flexibility and balance on a yoga mat or sweating out the stress with a run, throwing yourself into a regular exercise routine is one of the best things you can do in your journey toward recovery. Take some time to find what works for you and incorporate it into your schedule, while taking time to address any mental health issues, and you will soon find yourself on a path to a healthy, full life free from addiction.