Every adult who cares about their health should incorporate some exercise into their weekly routine. While staying active offers substantial health benefits to the general population, integrating exercise in recovery from addiction is even more beneficial.
When you first get clean and sober, learning to live without turning to drugs and alcohol is a challenge. You have to find ways to spend your time that don’t rely on your old habits and coping mechanisms. If you still don’t know how to spend your time, incorporating exercise in recovery early on is one of the best things you can do.
Treating your addiction or alcoholism takes ongoing effort and often benefits from multiple approaches. Keep reading to find out why exercise is an important part of a comprehensive approach to alcoholism and addiction recovery.
How Important is Exercise in Recovery?
If you’ve spent months or even years struggling to stop drinking or using drugs, you’re in brand new territory. Alcoholism and addiction you away from the people you love along with the hobbies and activities you used to enjoy. If your drug or alcohol use gets bad enough, your entire world revolves around substances from the time you wake up until you go to bed.
When you stop drinking or using you’re often faced with some newfound free time. You find you have open hours that you used to fill with some type of substance-related activity. It’s time-consuming when your main focus is drinking or using drugs, or making enough money to pick up again.
Use different forms of exercise to fill up some of these free hours during your week. Physical activity isn’t just a way to pass the time; it’s integral to your health and overall wellbeing, too. What are some of the other benefits of exercise in recovery?
The Benefits of Exercise in Recovery
Exercise is beneficial for the general public but incorporating exercise in recovery is even more important. Staying active comes with many benefits for people trying to stay alcohol- and drug-free. Exercise is well-known for its natural ability to release endorphins, those “feel-good” hormones that people chase with their drug and alcohol use.
Endorphins released during exercise improve your mood. If you’re feeling anxious or depressed, going out for an hour of physical activity can work wonders for relieving those symptoms. Having an effective substitute for substances in those moments of anxiety and depression is crucial to avoid relapse.
Exercise also increases your self-confidence. Alcohol and drug abuse often hold you back from achieving everything you’re capable of. Exercising is a great way to make measurable progress and do something to better yourself every day. Whether it’s going for a longer walk, lifting heavier weights than the day before, or something else you enjoy, it makes a huge difference.
Finding Forms of Exercise You Enjoy
It’s important to find forms of exercise in recovery that you enjoy, especially in the beginning. If you choose to do something you can’t stand you’re going to make excuses and avoid doing it. There are countless forms of exercise, enough for you to find at least one you enjoy.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) outlines multiple options for adults’ exercise recommendations. The HHS suggests 2.5 to 5 hours of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise every week. This gives you a variety of choices depending on the kinds of exercises you like.
Some kinds of moderate-intensity exercise include:
- Brisk walking (about 4 MPH)
- Bicycling at a light effort (about 10 to 12 MPH)
- Recreational badminton
- Tennis doubles
Vigorous-intensity exercises include things like:
- Jogging (about 6 MPH)
- Bicycling fast (about 14 to 16 MPH)
- Tennis singles
You have so many options for exercise that you’re guaranteed to find something you enjoy. Try some different activities and see which you prefer doing. Create an exercise routine that includes a mix of moderate- and vigorous-intensity options to keep you entertained.
How Often Should You Exercise?
You don’t need to go overboard. Most people with substance use disorders are used to living in extremes and operating on black-and-white thinking. Approaching exercise with an all-or-nothing mentality is a sure-fire way to set yourself up for failure.
If you set out determined to exercise for hours at a time or every day of the week you’re much less likely to stick with your plan. Start by setting up an exercise routine that you can adhere to instead. It doesn’t matter how simple it might seem at the beginning; the important thing is you develop the habit.
Using the HHS guidelines for exercise, build a weekly schedule of activities you enjoy. You can do the same thing multiple times, like going on a run 3 or 4 days each week. You can also include a mix of activities like a few quick walks on some weekdays then a game of soccer or tennis on the weekend.
Once your personal experience shows you the benefits of exercise in recovery, you’ll keep going on your own. You won’t need as much push to go because you’ll feel the difference in mood, self-confidence, and more.
Build Your Community Through Common Interests
Trying to get sober on your own isn’t easy. Another great part of including exercise in recovery is the built-in community that comes with some types of activities. Say you join a hiking club or find a spin class you like going to. You’ll find yourself surrounded by a group of people interested in activities you also enjoy.
You can also make use of an online support system like an online life coach. Your life coach will help you uncover what’s important to you and find the things that block you from achieving your goals. They act as a sounding board for your ideas and a guide to get you where you aim to be.
Interested in learning more about life coaching? Sign up for a free introductory coaching call today to see whether a life coach could be a helpful tool for you!