Many people know that regular exercise is good. During recovery from substance use disorder (SUD), the benefits of physical exercise can be even greater. In fact, many recovery experts encourage thinking of exercise as a free mood-boosting pill.
What Exercise Does to the Recovering Body
Physical activity helps one’s brain release certain feel-good chemicals. These include dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. These are the same chemicals many medications like anti-depressants typically also increase. Since physical activity and mental health medications have this in common, it’s no wonder exercise can help reduce feelings of stress.
In addition to releasing muscle tension and lifting a person’s mood, physical exercise is often recommended by health professionals as an effective therapeutic agent for many diseases, including hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and cancer.
Benefits of Regular Exercise During Recovery
In the early stages of treatment, regular exercise can ease some withdrawal symptoms. It can distract recovering individuals from paying too much attention to their lack of substances moment-to-moment. Moderate to vigorous exercise has even been known to curb cravings.
A new exercise routine may give individuals struggling with SUD something to do, and that helps them avoid common triggers, including people, places, objects, thought patterns, or feelings associated with past addiction. It is a healthy alternative to spending time in idleness, which can lead to boredom and potential relapses. Even at-home weightlifting or push-ups can help if one can dedicate time and space in their daily life to doing so.
The Right Amount of Physical Activity in Recovery
When health professionals recommend physical exercises, they consider many factors, including intensity, frequency, and duration of activities. Certain physical activities (like walking) may only be moderate intensity, but can be done frequently and for long periods.
Scientifically speaking, intensity is relative to oxygen consumption or heart rate. Moderate-intensity activities may raise the heart rate and breathing. Vigorous-intensity exercises elevate these indicators even higher. For people in recovery, finding the right “dosage” of regular exercise is important because they should avoid exhaustion while ensuring enough activity.
In recovery, individuals may want to break up their exercise sessions into a few shorter slots each day. Research has shown that even as little as five minutes of physical activity can curb cravings. Start slow and work up duration and intensity gradually.
Building an Exercise Routine From the Beginning of Recovery
Many people with SUD have neglected regular exercise while spending most of their time securing and using substances. Once these substances are detoxed from the body, they may feel anxious, depressed, or any number of other mental health effects. Building a regular exercise routine while detoxing can be helpful for a smoother transition from addicted to sober.
Recovering individuals should consider regular exercise as a medicine for stress reduction, the taking of which can be scheduled throughout the day. Some people like to spend 15 minutes in the morning walking. Others may preserve an evening time for a certain sport. Others might enjoy a short yoga or pilates session over lunch.
After a few weeks of establishing an exercise routine, individuals may notice improvements in sleep quality and energy levels. As the body and mind continue to adjust, individuals can regain a more regular sleep schedule, which is fundamental to a healthy lifestyle. They will no longer feel lethargic at times because regular exercise can restore balance in their internal systems.
Exercise Is Your Best Friend in Different Phases of Recovery
The journey of recovery is long and full of ups and downs. Over time, regular exercise produces healthy neuroanatomical structures that aid the transitional phases of recovery. Recovering individuals can adjust the length, intensity, and variety of their physical exercise to aid the changing needs of their bodies.
For people who have achieved sobriety, regular exercise may also bring social benefits. When one explores a new sport or engages in outdoor activities, one can socialize with new friends and explore a brand-new page in life. Many recovery centers use adventure therapy to bring moments of awe in nature that are therapeutic for recovering individuals.
Picking a Sport You Enjoy While Exploring New Options
Recovery is a time when individuals can make space to explore. If someone has always enjoyed swimming, they can make that their weekly routine. Meanwhile, that individual may want to add some elements of fun by exploring other sports options, such as hiking, tennis, yoga, or biking.
When choosing a recovery facility, check what exercise options they offer. No type of exercise is better than others. Individuals should choose one or two types that continue to motivate them. Some health experts refer to exercise as “meditation in motion.” While individuals arrange a time for mindfulness meditation practices, it is equally important to devote some time to exercise.
If you or a loved one is looking for a good addiction treatment center, consider one with strong physical activity programs. Building a regular exercise regimen is helpful in many situations, including chronic illnesses, mental health, and SUD. Through experiential therapy and outdoor activities, you have a chance to improve your health and build deeper relationships that may impact you in the long term. At Laguna Shores Recovery, our experienced mental health professionals and compassionate staff know the value of whole person wellness. We will walk alongside you or your loved one to offer support and guidance. Our alumni programs offer stellar aftercare and connect you with a lifelong community of recovering individuals. Call us today to discover how you can be part of our community, as peer support is the key to recovery. For more information, call (866) 229-9923.