Addiction to drugs or alcohol takes a toll on your body. In recovery, your body needs time to heal from the damage caused by years of substance abuse and addiction. Exercise benefits everyone, but for those in recovery from addiction, it is essential. Whether you set up a regular exercise routine on your own, join a gym or an exercise class, or find ways to make your life more active, the benefits to your physical and mental health will be numerous.
Active Recovery Exercise: One Type of Exercise Regime
Many of us think of exercise as a hard workout followed by flopping down on the floor or couch to rest. This inactivity after a workout is called passive recovery, and it’s not the best transition for the body. It can lead to stiffness and tiredness and a reluctance to exercise the next day.
Active recovery exercise is when a strenuous workout or activity is followed by a low-intensity exercise, such as yoga or walking, to recover from the workout. Active recovery exercise provides many benefits, such as eliminating toxins, reducing lactic acid buildup in the muscles, and increasing blood flow–all of which help prevent muscle soreness and keep the muscles flexible.
What Kind of Exercise Is Best?
Choose an exercise or activity you enjoy so you’re inspired to keep doing it. If you’re easily bored, do different types of exercise throughout the week. Take a brisk walk one day and a Zumba class or a long swim the next day. The important thing is to exercise regularly. Following a regular exercise routine in recovery helps avoid potential relapse.
Exercise Helps the Brain Heal
Have you ever heard of a runner’s high? It’s the euphoric feeling a person gets following any intense exercise. Research shows that exercise and drugs affect the brain in similar ways. They both affect the brain’s pleasure and reward system by activating the same reward pathways that dopamine and serotonin. Long-term substance abuse stops the brain from naturally producing these chemicals. Exercise promotes normal brain function by reversing chemical imbalances. It helps heal the damaged areas of the brain.
Physical Health Benefits
Exercising regularly for at least 150 minutes a week does more than help with weight management. It helps reduce the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other chronic diseases. It also reduces the risk of certain types of cancer, strengthens the immune system, boosts good cholesterol (HDL), and decreases triglycerides. Regular exercise helps your brain heal from the damage of substance abuse by increasing the number of new nerve connections produced.
Exercise is a very effective method of relieving both emotional and physical stress. When you are in recovery, anger and arguments may result from emotional stress. If the stress stays bottled up and continues to build, a relapse may occur. Exercise is a proven way to decompress and drain away negative feelings. Exercise also is a great way to reduce physical tension in the body. It leaves your body feeling relaxed as muscles are stretched and strengthened.
When you exercise, you expend energy. Your heart pumps faster, and your body’s oxygen level increases. When you exercise regularly, your cardiovascular system improves overall. As you become more physically fit, daily activities become easier. In recovery, regular exercise provides more energy and a way to cope with the demands of everyday life.
Problems with sleep are common in recovery, especially in the early stages. Problematic sleep leaves you feeling tired and sluggish during the day. Regular exercise can help you get better sleep. As your sleep habits improve, you will feel rested and more alert during the day.
Routine & Structure
Regular exercise helps reduce cravings by creating a healthy routine for you to follow. Share your exercise commitment and plans with another person and ask them to hold you accountable for your commitment. Better yet, ask them to exercise with you.
You can also schedule your exercise for times when you know you feel cravings the strongest. For example, if you always attended happy hour after work, plan on exercising at that time.
Do You Need Help?
If you or a loved one is struggling with a drug or alcohol addiction, now is the time to get help. Call English Mountain Recovery, located in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, and speak to a caring professional. We will answer your questions and help you take the steps you need to travel the path to recovery.
About the Author:
Terry Hurley is a retired educational professional and freelance writer with more than fifty years of experience. A former reading specialist and learning center director, Terry loved her years working with children in the educational field. She has written extensively for print and online publications specializing in education and health issues. For the last six years, her writing focus has been on addiction and mental health issues.