Feb 4, 2016 | By Tim Powers

It Works If You Work It: 4 Benefits of Exercise in Addiction Recovery

Health and Nutrition in Addiction Recovery Recovery Relapse Prevention

Exercise and Recovery

We hear it all the time from people in 12-step groups…it works if you work it.

In the context of recovery, this saying it simply stating the obvious. It order to get the most out of your sobriety and to maintain what you have worked so hard to achieve, you need to continue to put effort into your program of recovery. It goes without saying, but you need plenty of tools in the proverbial relapse prevention tool belt not only  to minimize the chances of relapse in your recovery, but you need these tools in order to keep physically and psychologically fit.

Of all the tools in that tool belt, exercise should be one of the tools that should constantly be in use. The benefits of exercise in recovery are immense, and the following five examples illustrate how exercise will strengthen your recovery game.

Exercise Improves Mood and Will Boost Your Confidence

exercise and mood

One of the biggest benefits of exercise in addiction recovery is that improves your mood naturally, and the “natural high” you experience can go a long way in boosting your confidence and self-esteem. Whether you go for a power park in your neighborhood, hit the gym and pump some iron or take part in a yoga or Pilates program, a good workout can result in what is known as a relaxation response. This phenomenon occurs as a result of the flood of endorphins and other transmitters throughout your brain after vigorous physical activity.

When you exercise on a regular basis, you will notice positive changes in how your body looks and feels and this improves your overall self-image. Another great benefit of exercise in addiction recovery is the fact that it provides a space for you to meet your personal goals  at your own pace. Once you achieve your own exercise goals, you can feel a tremendous sense of pride and accomplishment which will also boost your confidence and self-esteem.

Exercise Enables You to Hit Your Brains “Reset Button”

Along with the improvement of physical health and appearance, another one of the major benefits of exercise in addiction recovery is that in gives you a way to deal with anxiety and depression in your recovery. Those who engage in regular exercise are less likely to develop an anxiety or depressive disorder, and exercise may be as effective as taking medications for those who may already be diagnosed with a co-occurring disorder.

Exercise releases a chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF is essential in maintaining healthy neurons as well as the ability to create new neurons. As a result, your brain gains a much needed sense of clarity and focus and you will be better able to deal with the stresses and anxieties of daily life in a much healthier fashion. Exercise can also provide a welcome distraction from the monotony that your day may bring.

Exercise Is A Great Way To Be Social

walkingAs human beings, we are social creatures by nature and we absolutely need human interaction in order to feel complete and survive–and this is especially true for those of us who are in recovery. Another one of the great benefits of exercise in addiction recovery is the fact that friends and family can join you for the fun. Grabbing a workout buddy can provide you the motivation to work out harder, and you can create fun challenges that keeps exercise fun.

Most importantly, having a friend or family member joining you as part of daily exercise strengths your connections with those people, and they can provide you with the support and encouragement you need if you have having struggles in your recovery.

It is Easy To Start an Exercise Program

Perhaps the biggest benefit of exercise in recovery is the fact that it is easy to incorporate into your daily routine. There are many people who may be very hesitant to start an exercise regimen because of their current fitness level. The best thing about exercise is there a variety of activities people can enjoy, and these activities can be simple enough to accommodate those who are just starting.

For example, you can start by simply going for a short walk each day, ride a stationary bike or engage in a leisurely game of tennis or basketball. Whatever you interests, you can find a physical activity that you like. Not only is starting an exercise program easy, you don’t have to make significant daily commitment in order for it to be effective. In as little as 20 minutes a day, you would be reaping the full physical and psychological benefits of exercise.

Before you start any exercise program, it is highly recommended that you meet with your doctor and get a full medical evaluation. Having underlying medical conditions can limit the range of physical activity you can reasonably perform. In the event that you have an underlying medical condition, your doctor or physician – along with an experienced trainer – can recommend the types of physical exercise you can do that won’t put your health in jeopardy.

No matter where you are in your recovery, incorporating physical fitness and exercise into your overall recovery plan will help you maintain your sobriety.

3 responses to “It Works If You Work It: 4 Benefits of Exercise in Addiction Recovery

  • I agree with all of the points in this article. My recovery centers around discovering my life’s purpose and staying fit. I feel way better after a workout than I ever did after drinking.

    People avoid exercise because it seems like hard work. In the beginning it was hard to motivate myself to go to the gym. But the brain is plastic: now I simply can’t imagine life without working out.

  • Stargazer

    8 years ago

    I also 100% agree with this post. Sober almost 3 years. Exercise and eating right are both a huge part of my life. It makes a difference! Anyone sitting around? Tired… tired of being an unhealthy addict? Make the choice to change. It’s worth it!!

    Thank you Sober Nation! I love having this blog to read.

  • Fitness has been crucial to my recovery at times. Early on, I was hooked on it. Those endorphins giving me natural highs. I am trying to get back into it but my life’s schedule uke has become so filled with responsibilities and comkittmens (blessings really) that I can’t find the time. Do you have suggestions for a guy with two kids under 4, and severa jobs/endeavors that take up just about each second of the day?

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