By Guest Contributor Susan Treadway
If you’re in recovery for a drug or alcohol problem, congratulations. Being clean and sober is something to be proud of and you’ve accomplished a difficult task. But your work has just begun; recovery is a lifelong process and you’ll need every tool at your disposal to continue to remain victorious against this unrelenting enemy.
One often overlook activity to help supplement recovery is exercise. Physical fitness, which is already important for overall health, has a contrasting effect on the body compared to drugs but triggers the same reward center in the brain. When the reward system is activated, it releases dopamine, the chemical responsible for creating the cravings that go along with pleasant experiences or chemically-induced good feelings.
Stress and Mental Health
Drug dependency is a mental health concern that requires treatment. And stress is a known trigger and inducer of cravings for a particular drug once the brain is wired to look for that reward. Exercise can help relieve stress, thus reducing cravings and boosting your willpower to avoid bad behaviors. The Mayo Clinic reports that exercise also contributes to good sleep habits, increased self-confidence, and overall mood improvement.
Before jumping into a new exercise routine, there are a number of factors to consider. Most importantly, your physical ability to workout. Your current fitness level will play a huge role in the types and amounts of exercise you begin with. If you have plantar fasciitis or unresolved musculoskeletal injuries, for instance, you probably don’t want start running without first acclimating your body to exercise. Plexus notes that walking is a great low-impact way to step into exercise. It’s an activity that doesn’t cost anything and can be done with a friend when you need a little extra motivation.
Swimming is another excellent option for those in drug rehabilitation. Being in the water is relaxing, which further enhances the stress-relief benefits of this low-impact, full-body workout. When you’re in water, much of the strain on your muscles and joints is reduced and you aren’t hindered by issues of balance. More importantly, swimming is fun and you have numerous options for engaging in an afternoon of recreational therapy. Most cities have at least one fitness or community center with an indoor pool. You can also go for a swim in your local lake or, if you’re lucky enough to live by the beach, spend an afternoon soaking up the salt water of the ocean.
Other options for cardiovascular exercise include jogging, jumping on a trampoline, and dancing.
Once you get started and have found a cardiovascular activity you enjoy, you want to balance your workout with strength training. Strength training, whether with free weights, exercise equipment, or resistance bands, has a host of benefits that can keep your focus off drugs and alcohol. Weight-bearing exercises strengthen the muscles and bones, help boost balance, and improves cognitive function, according to HuffPost.
Exercising is a powerful tool in your private battle against drug addiction. But in addition to physical activity, you’ll also need to learn to make healthy choices in all aspects of life. And you can use exercise as a springboard to do so. Instead of spending time with negative influences – those people who encourage drug or alcohol use – consider joining a local fitness club where you can be surrounded by positive influences.
Exercise is important for everyone as it provides lifelong benefits to the body and brain. It is perhaps more important to recovering addicts and can serve as a substitution when cravings hit. But choose your exercise program wisely and make sure it’s something that you enjoy and are physically capable of doing. While exercise alone can’t get you well, it’s one way to enhance your mind and body and give you the strength to continue fighting your cravings and addiction.
Active Sports Clubs is proud to support your healthy lifestyle goals, and offers a free 3-day visit to all first-time local guests. Claim your pass here.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Susan Treadway is an addict in recovery. She uses a holistic approach to sobriety to stay on a successful path and believes adopting even a few holistic methods can help anyone struggling with addiction.
She wants everyone to know that you don’t have to be a hippie to embrace holistic wellness – this concept is simply about focusing on your entire sense of well-being rather than just one part. She hopes her website, rehabholistics.com, will inspire anyone who has struggled with addiction to incorporate holistic practices into their own self-care routine.