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There’s a good reason that sports are such a highlight of American culture. In fact, competitive sports go much further back than we might expect. There is evidence of ancient civilizations creating and playing sports, even cave drawings of athletic competition dating as far back as 3000 B.C.!

The appeal of competitive sports is undeniable. It offers entertainment, health benefits, an outlet for physical activity and bonding experiences for a community. Sports can help to build a common culture, encourage time outdoors and teach valuable lessons of teamwork, humility and drive. And let’s not forget, sports are just plain old fun.

Sports can also be incredibly beneficial to those struggling with addiction. All of the above mentioned pros to participating in sports can help a person in substance use recovery and contribute to long-term sobriety. Here are some reasons you should consider sports and sobriety.

Sports help maintain physical health

Competitive sports, whether individual or team sports, can help you to get into shape and stay in shape. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, regular exercise can help with weight management, improve bone and muscle strength, decrease anxiety, improve sleep, improve heart health and reduce your risk of experiencing severe health conditions like diabetes and cancers.

Still not convinced? Sports help your brain, too. A study published by the Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine found that daily physical activity decreases depression and cognitive decline by around 20 to 30 percent. These benefits are by no means exhaustive, and it’s clear that anything that helps your body and brain will also help you to overcome addiction.

Build skills through sports

Exercising by playing sports builds important skills that translate to other areas of life. Not only will you improve on physical skills like balance, hand-eye coordination and agility, but you’ll also foster mental skills like strategizing and focusing. 

In team sports, you can improve social skills like communication, both verbally and through body language. In an individual sport, you’re bound to increase your ability to concentrate and execute under pressure, as you’ll have to rely on yourself to achieve the results you want. Whether you’re enjoying team or individual athletics, these skills can help you to achieve more as you work towards recovery.

Make friends through athletic competition

Like most people going through recovery, you may be reassessing your circle of influence. In order to stay sober, you may have to say goodbye to friends and family that could be harmful to your recovery. Pursuing sobriety can be a lonely journey if you need to step back from several relationships, but building new friendships can help to heal that wound.

Not only is meeting new people cognitively rewarding, but building friendships can offer you the support you need to more successfully manage your addiction. Sports teams tend to be safe and exciting spaces to engage in new relationships with positive peers. It’s likely that your new friends will be motivated and forward-looking people. More than that, they’ll be happy to have you there and you may discover a sense of purpose with your newfound community.

Experience highs and lows in a healthy way

The highs and lows associated with drug and alcohol addiction tend to be at the extremes. When you are engaging in competitive sports, the highs and lows can also be emotional, but they will not put your life in jeopardy or cause dysfunction in your life like substances did.

In all competition, a person can expect to win and lose at different points. Sport will help you find healthy outlets to deal with loss and celebrate victory.

Increase motivation

When you play a sport, you start setting goals by default. Setting goals is natural in sports, and it’s easy to measure and track progress, because most sports operate using point systems or time comparison.

These lessons will easily translate to your sobriety journey, because you’ll be setting goals in that area of your life as well. Using the SMART acronym (which stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely) you’ll make goals like you would in a sport, which will motivate you towards progress. The competitiveness you pick up on the court can help you reframe your experience in addiction recovery. Think of your competitor as the person you were yesterday.

Keep in mind that many adult sports leagues operate as “beer leagues” or visit bars after events. Although the presence of drugs or alcohol may be the norm for some teams, there are plenty of options for sports where substances won’t be around. Exercise caution. You know yourself best when it comes to triggers to usage. If you think you’ll be more vulnerable and potentially compromise your sobriety, skip the event or change leagues.

Get involved in local competition

There are dozens of benefits to participating in sports and easy ways to get involved at any age. Take advantage of sports and sobriety to enhance your health, build skills, meet new friends and increase motivation. Check social media for pick up sports or consider joining a league through your local community center to dive into the dozens of benefits sports can offer you. 

Work towards improving your mental and physical health as you pursue recovery with Real Recovery. Real Recovery offers sober living homes to support you in achieving lasting sobriety. Get the help you need to live a life of freedom by calling (855) 363-7325 today.