Getting sober is tough. You have to put in lots of hard work, especially on the days you don’t feel like it. The rewards might come slowly, but with recovery comes mental clarity, better physical health and more enjoyment out of life.
Sobriety and exercise are similar in that sense. Both require hard work but the benefits are worthwhile. Regular exercise can even help you in your recovery from addiction.
Exercise alone isn’t enough
If you’re hoping to start exercising for sobriety, know that a regular fitness routine alone isn’t enough. Nothing replaces treatment from licensed professionals for drug and alcohol addiction. However, if you are already partaking in treatment and looking for something to supplement or enhance your recovery efforts, exercise is one of the best things you can do.
Benefits of working out
The benefits of a regular fitness routine are well documented. Not only are there a large number of benefits, but the benefits themselves have a big impact.
Improved brain health
According to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), after a moderate workout the brain is impacted in three major ways: better cognitive functioning, improved sleep and decreased feelings of anxiety. Exercise can also keep your brain in top shape for decades to come, as it hones thinking and judgment skills.
In the midst of drug and alcohol use, the brain suffers from toxic chemicals that disrupt optimal brain functioning. Improving your brain health can help to repair the damage done by substance use. To learn more about how drugs affect the brain check out this article from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
The first benefit a lot of people think of when they think of exercise is weight loss. A regular fitness routine can keep your body in peak shape so that you’re able to do everything you want to. As you progress in your recovery, you’ll feel more eager to exercise and when you exercise more you’ll feel better in your body. Overall, with a healthy fitness routine you’ll be less apt to use substances.
Improved physical health outcomes
One of the long-term benefits of regular exercise is that it improves overall health outcomes. Specifically, it reduces a person’s lifetime risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, multiple cancers, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and more according to the DHHS.
Improved mental health
When a person is exercising, endorphins (stress-reduction chemicals in the body) are released in large amounts. These endorphins improve mood and help a person to relax.
The Mayo Clinic notes that the positive effects of exercise can greatly reduce stress, anxiety and depression both as an immediate effect of exercise and a long-term benefit of a regular fitness regimen.
Drugs have the opposite effect and make us feel worse in the long-run. There is a high prevalence of co-occurring substance use disorder and mental health disorders, so exercising has the double benefit of combatting both.
One of the biggest roadblocks to sobriety is low self-confidence. Often people who struggle with addiction deal with feelings of unworthiness and can be extremely hard on themselves. Exercise breaks apart that negative self-worth over time as people grow to appreciate and cherish their bodies.
Types of workouts
Once you’re convinced of the benefits of working out to help with sobriety, you might be wondering where to start. There are limitless ways to exercise – you can sign up for a gym membership, jog around your neighborhood or join a local sports league. Be sure to find something that is fun for you to best stick with your fitness routine.
One form of exercise is called cardio or aerobic exercise. Cardio increases a person’s heart rate and typically involves the repetitive movement of muscles with little to no resistance. Think of activities like brisk walking, jogging or dancing.
A quick internet search for cardio workout will give you thousands of options, but narrow your search to an intensity and length of time that works for you. If you do cardio workouts frequently you’ll be able to up the duration and intensity and see results quickly.
Unlike cardio, muscle strengthening workouts use repetitive movements with resistance, often in the form of weights. If you don’t have access to weights or a gym do exercises that use your body weight as resistance, like sets of push-ups or squats.
Balance and flexibility
The third category of exercise is balance and flexibility. This includes exercises like yoga and stretching that use the body’s full range of motions and strengthen joints and muscles. These exercises are both healthy and calming, and many people add them into their daily routines as a mindfulness practice.
For the best results a combination of these three types of exercise is best. The CDC recommends an average of 25 minutes of exercise each day to take full advantage of the benefits listed above.
Outside of professional treatment, exercise is one of the best things you can do in your journey toward sobriety. Investing in your all-around well-being will take time, but the benefits are well worth the effort. Try a variety of exercises and start wherever you are now. Exercise and sobriety are two things you’ll want as part of your life sooner rather than later.
Reach out to Real Recovery to take advantage of the professional help that will make all the difference in your journey towards sobriety. With a team of support, there’s nothing you can’t conquer. Call 855-363-7325 today to set up an appointment.