It seems like a simple idea, and maybe like an unnecessary thing to worry about when you have bigger issues to deal with, but exercise could be very important to your recovery from addiction. Some of the latest research into addiction treatment indicates that healthy lifestyle changes can help recovering addicts resist the urge to relapse. Furthermore, exercise as one of those changes can give you a natural high to replace the artificial one you have been chasing. These are just two of the many reasons to include some kind of exercise in your recovery program.
Why Exercise for Recovery?
Among the many reasons exercise helps during recovery is simply that it improves overall health and wellness. When your health begins to improve, you feel better, both in body and mind. Exercise can mitigate the negative impacts of giving up drugs or alcohol, such as difficulty sleeping, feelings of anxiety and depression and weight gain. When you start to feel better, you are less likely to want to use drugs or alcohol. After beginning an exercise program and feeling the benefits, you can also include other lifestyle changes, like a more nutritious diet. Another good reason for exercise is that it gives you an alternative reward. Using drugs and alcohol is all about looking for a reward. Drugs trigger the reward system in your brain and cause certain chemicals associated with reward and pleasure to flood your system. Exercise is a natural way to get that good feeling. Although it is less intense than what you experience with drugs or alcohol, it does provide an alternative. In addition to the chemistry going on in your brain when you exercise, working out will give you a sense of achievement when you meet certain goals.
Where Do I Begin?
If you have never worked out before, think about starting out small. Go for a walk every day and see how it feels. Find a buddy to go with you so that you can socialize while you walk. An exercise buddy also helps keep you motivated and encouraged when you feel like giving up. Before you try anything more vigorous than a brisk, daily walk, talk to your doctor or addiction counselor. You may feel up to more serious exercise, but your body may not yet be ready. If your doctor gives you the go-ahead to start working out more, consider enlisting the help of a trainer. A professional trainer can get you started on a workout routine that is safe and will help you build up your strength. Make sure you follow instructions to avoid injury. While it is important to push yourself, going too far, too fast can cause you to hurt yourself. An injury can put you in a vulnerable position as a recovering addict.
What About Substitute Addictions?
While in recovery from addiction you are in an exposed position, susceptible not only to relapsing, but also to substitute addictions. This is the phenomenon that often occurs when an addict replaces one addiction for another. Many have fallen into that trap with exercise. It is important that you keep up with your addiction counseling and learn to recognize the signs of addiction in yourself. If you begin to feel yourself obsessing over exercise, limit your workout time and talk to someone about it. Exercise is a powerful tool for recovery, but it can also be your substitute. Be aware and be proactive so that you can use exercise to your advantage.