When substance abuse leads to addiction, your physical and mental health is immediately at risk.1 A large part of the recovery process is repairing the damage to your health and creating a routine that allows you stay healthy.
One of the best ways to do this is to start an exercise program.2 Physical exercise has many benefits for your health. You can exercise alone, working out to your own routine, or in groups that share a training plan.
Exercise Decreases Cravings
Addiction treatment programs often emphasize the importance of replacing harmful behaviors with healthier behaviors. Instead of turning to drugs or alcohol to cope with stress and other problems, look for healthier ways to deal with them. Physical exercise is a proven way to lift your spirits and decrease stress.
People in recovery learn to cope with the cravings that are a regular part of recovery. Cravings can occur at any time and in any situation. When they happen, people may focus on the craving, which can increase the intensity and duration of the craving.
Exercise is an excellent way to avoid focusing on cravings. Even something as simple as going for a walk can reduce cravings. Lifting weights, going for a swim or taking a bike ride are all useful coping techniques to handle cravings.
Exercise Helps Reduce Stress
Stress is a significant factor in the development of a substance use disorder and is a key risk factor for relapse. Studies have shown that managing stress leads to better treatment outcomes in addiction therapy.
Stress cannot be eliminated or avoided completely. Stress is a natural response to many types of normal situations, and small doses of stress can be healthy. However, if stress is not managed properly, it can have a negative impact your health.
Exercise helps eliminate many symptoms of stress. Exercise reduces feelings of tension and fatigue and improves the quality of sleep. Physical exercise releases chemicals in the brain that make you feel better, leading to a more positive overall attitude. Physical exercise helps you to not obsess over things that irritate or bother you.
Which Types of Exercise Are Helpful?
The good news is that any kind of exercise, ranging from simple floor exercises to physically challenging workouts, can help reduce stress levels and improve well-being. Choose exercise activities that take into account your current health while helping you meet any goals you have for physical fitness.
Exercising with others provides an added incentive to stay active, because it can help you to rebuild a social network after addiction treatment that isn’t centered around drinking or drug use. Contacting sober living programs in your area can be a way to find a group of people to exercise with who all prioritize well-being—both their physical health and their sobriety.