You’ve probably heard it a million times: “You should exercise.” While exercising might be the last thing you want to do, there are three very good reasons you should incorporate it into your recovery process.
Exercise reduces stress
Many people in the recovery process first sought drugs or alcohol as a way to cope with stress. Obviously, substance abuse is not a foolproof coping mechanism, and avoiding relapse adds a whole new world of stressors.
Exercise helps by relieving physical and psychological stress. Movement releases tension in your muscles, and that sensation of release/relief automatically lifts your mood. Exercise also speeds up the breakdown of “stress hormones”—i.e., cortisol (and adrenaline and others). The reduction of stress-related hormones in your body helps regulate your body weight and improve sleep quality, helping those in recovery to minimize weight gain/loss and insomnia.
Exercise also gives you something else to focus on, providing a temporary escape from whatever is causing you stress. Being able to step away from your cares and concerns for a few minutes allows you to return to those issues with a clearer head, more focus and a better attitude.
Exercise positively alters your brain chemistry
Opioid addiction is difficult to overcome because of the way drugs change your brain chemistry and function. Your brain stops producing the neurochemicals that balance your mood and give rise to a sense of well-being and happiness. While your body will resume its natural neurochemical production, eventually, exercise can provide a mood lift when times get tough.
Exercising boosts the production of endorphins, which create a natural euphoric sensation. While the endorphin “high” may wear off, research shows that exercise is one of the most effective ways to ward off depression and anxiety, two common mental health challenges experienced by many recovery participants.
Exercise is a type of meditation
Through exercise, you can experience the psychological benefits of meditation. No matter what activity you choose to do for exercise, by focusing on the activity—i.e., concentrating on maintaining proper form or the physical sensations you experience with each movement—you focus your thoughts on the present and become more mindful. Cultivating mindfulness allows you to reflect on and choose your perspective, and choice is a powerful tool in your recovery journey.
Of course, exercise is only one tool we recommend for your recovery toolbox. For more, contact or visit Duke City Recovery Toolbox to develop a treatment plan tailored to your needs.