Regular exercise reduces your risk of developing a wide range of diseases, but daily physical activity can also help you maintain successful recovery from a substance use disorder. Whether you enjoy biking, swimming, walking, running, playing sports or getting your hands dirty in the garden, staying active in recovery is one of the best ways to prevent relapse. Here are the top five benefits of exercise for people in recovery.
1. It reduces stress.
Stress is a potent trigger for relapse, and a great deal of attention is devoted to stress reduction techniques during treatment. Exercise is an excellent way to ease stress to help prevent relapse.
According to Harvard Medical School, exercise reduces the amount of the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol in the body and stimulates the release of endorphins to promote relaxation. But exercise doesn’t just reduce stress. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, it can actually increase your overall tolerance for stressful situations.
2. It eases anxiety and depression.
Because exercise promotes the release of endorphins, the body’s “feel-good” chemicals, it helps to ease feelings of anxiety and depression. Anxiety and depression are common relapse triggers, and maintaining a stable mood can help alleviate intense cravings associated with feelings of anxiousness or sadness.
A recent study by Duke University found that just a half hour of exercise three days a week relieves symptoms of depression as effectively as medication, and it helps prevent it from returning for the long-term.
3. It alleviates cravings.
Regular exercise helps ease the intensity of cravings, according to a 2011 Vanderbilt University study. Researchers recruited twelve heavy marijuana users to run on a treadmill for 30 minutes, five days a week. After just two weeks, participants reported a 50 percent reduction in cravings, and as an unexpected added benefit, the subjects also decreased their marijuana use.
4. It helps you sleep better.
Adequate, high-quality sleep is essential for overall good health, and it’s particularly important to get enough shut-eye in recovery. According to the National Sleep Foundation, a recent study found that people who exercise for at least 150 minutes a week—or 30 minutes a day, five days a week—fall asleep easier, stay asleep longer, sleep better and feel more alert the next day.
However, exercising too close to bedtime can result in insomnia, so it’s best to avoid any intense physical activity within four hours of bedtime.
5. It promotes other healthy lifestyle choices.
Harvard Medical School points out that regular exercise has far-reaching implications for your self-confidence, and it helps foster other healthy lifestyle choices.(1) As you gain a sense of self-discipline and mastery over mind and body through regular exercise, your self-efficacy in recovery improves.
Additionally, as you lose weight or gain muscle definition, you naturally feel stronger in both mind and body, which improves your ability to cope with the various challenges commonly faced by those in recovery, including triggers like stress, anxiety and cravings.
The Best Exercises for Recovery
It doesn’t matter what kind of exercise you perform as long as you move your body for a half hour most days of the week. According to the Centers for Disease Control, you can even perform your 30 daily minutes in 10-minute increments and still get the full benefits of physical movement.
The most important thing is to perform physical activities you enjoy, which will help ensure continued motivation for exercising. If you’re not one who enjoys going to the gym, no problem. Some of the activities you might try include:
- Dancing around the living room
- Walking the dog
- Playing tennis
- Participating in a sports league
- Taking up the hula hoop
- Joining a yoga class
- Doing jumping jacks, sit-ups and yoga moves during TV commercials
If you have trouble staying motivated to exercise, consider finding an exercise buddy or try training for a race, such as a 5k or a charity run for an organization you feel strongly about. Chances are, once you get used to regular exercise and begin reaping the many feel-good benefits, that will be all the motivation you need to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle.
To learn more about the benefits of exercise therapy and how we can help you overcome addiction, give us a call at 877-466-0620.