“Exercise is an important component of addiction recovery.”This is a comprehensive look at the benefits of exercise for those in recovery. This eBook also offers helpful tips to ensure you get enough exercise, get the most out of it, find personal satisfaction in getting a move on and enjoy the many benefits of an active lifestyle.
The Benefits of Exercise in Addiction RecoveryA large body of research shows that exercise is beneficial on many fronts, particularly in the early months of recovery. Exercise…
- Improves Your Mood and Overall Mental Health
- Improves Your Self-Esteem
- Helps Combat Cravings
- Helps You Maintain a Healthy Weight
- Improves Sleep
- Reduces Stress
- Combats Boredom and Promotes Structure
- Improves Your Memory
- Fosters Other Healthy Lifestyle Choices
“Exercise makes you feel good, and it improves your self-confidence and self-discipline.”
- Improves Your Overall Health and Well-Being
How Much Exercise Do You Need?The Centers for Disease Control recommends getting 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise, such as running, each week.10 This boils down to a half hour of exercise per day, five days a week. The CDC points out that you don’t have to do your whole half hour all at once. Breaking it down into three ten-minute stretches throughout the day affords the same benefits as doing it all at once, but breaking it up can help you find the time and motivation to get physical. The CDC also recommends engaging in strength training twice weekly to work all of your major muscle groups and strengthen your core for more effective workouts and better disease and injury prevention.
Three Excellent Exercises for RecoveryThere are no proven “best” exercises for people in recovery. Rather, the kinds of exercise you enjoy most are the ones you should focus on engaging in. As long as you’re moving your body for around 150 minutes per week, you will reap the many benefits of exercise. That said, below are three popular exercises that are suited to those in recovery:
“The kinds of exercise you enjoy most are the ones you should focus on engaging in”.
- Dancing:The University of California at Berkeley’s wellness program points to the ways in which dancing can help you in recovery.11 Dancing to your favorite music improves your mood, increases your sense of well-being, bolsters your coping abilities and boosts your self-esteem.
- Swimming: Moving through the water can be highly therapeutic in addition to being a great aerobic exercise. Swimming reduces pain, eases depression and improves sleep quality.12 It’s also a very low-impact activity particularly suited to those with an injury or illness that precludes engaging in higher-impact activities like running.
- Hiking in nature: Hit the hiking trails for a great workout while communing with nature. According to the University of Minnesota’s Center for Spirituality and Healing, being in nature quells feelings of fear and anger, reduces levels of stress hormones, lowers your blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension and other responses to stress and promotes a sense of calm.13
Exercise as Moving MeditationMeditation is quickly becoming a mainstream practice that can help you manage symptoms associated with a wide range of illnesses, including addiction. Simply the act of quieting the mind and focusing your attention on the present moment, meditation doesn’t have to be done in a cross-legged position while chanting. You can meditate anywhere and in any position, and in fact, some exercises are well-suited to focusing the mind on the present and letting conscious thoughts of the past and future fall away.
“Some exercises are well-suited to focusing the mind on the present and letting conscious thoughts of the past and future fall away.”These meditative exercises can work to improve your overall sense of wellness and promote deeper connections between mind, body and spirit: Yoga. Yoga is a highly meditative practice that combines movement and breathing, offering a workout that promotes strength, flexibility and balance of both mind and body. Yoga brings your focus into the present moment and puts you in tune with your physical and mental state. Harvard Medical School points out that yoga mitigates your body’s responses to stress, such as increased heart rate, blood pressure and muscle tension.14 According to an article published in the journal Substance Abuse, yoga is a proven therapy for preventing relapse.15 Practicing yoga in recovery helps you navigate cravings, promotes healthy lifestyle choices and can help you recognize signs of early relapse by strengthening your connection to your mind. Walking. Going for a long walk can be very meditative if you acknowledge the thoughts that enter your brain and let them float away without holding on to them. Walking lets you focus your attention on your senses, which anchors you in the present. On your walk, listen to nature, feel the sunshine and breeze on your skin, smell the cut grass and witness what’s going on around you. Working in the Garden. Yard work involves squatting, digging, lifting, hauling and raking, among other modes of physical activity. But it’s also highly meditative. Working in the garden is a mindful activity that lets you focus on your immediate surroundings, nurture living things, and create a peaceful space for enjoying nature, entertaining guests and spending quiet time with your thoughts. Gardening also exposes you to natural daylight that improves your mood and increases your levels of vitamin D, which is essential for good health. If you don’t have space for a garden, consider joining a community garden, creating a balcony garden or helping a friend or elderly neighbor tend to their garden.
How to Form Good Exercise Habits, Even if You Hate ExercisingEven if you enjoy exercising, it can be difficult to find the time and motivation to get active. If you don’t particularly enjoy it, trying to develop the motivation to move most days of the week can be frustrating and discouraging. These tips can help you develop good exercising habits even if you’d rather stay on the couch than get a move on. Choose an activity you enjoy. If you hate jogging, it’ll probably be pretty difficult for you to maintain a regular exercise routine if you limit yourself to that activity. Keep in mind that dancing, working in the yard, taking long walks, going on hikes, engaging in martial arts and joining a sports league are all legitimate forms of exercise. The important thing is to choose activities that you enjoy and make them part of your lifestyle or even incorporate them into your social life.
“The important thing is to choose activities that you enjoy and make them part of your lifestyle.”Track your progress. If you’re the type of person who likes to map your progress, doing so can help you stay motivated to get your weekly 150 minutes of exercise. A number of products and apps are available to help you do just that. For example, a Fitbit (and other products like it) is a tracking tool you wear on your wrist that counts your daily steps and monitors your sleep. The information is downloaded to your personal dashboard, where you can look at charts of your progress and record your daily food and water intake and log the actual exercises you do. Likewise, a wide range of apps are available for your phone that map your walking, running or biking route, record distances, speeds and calories burned as well as offer community support and tools to track other aspects of fitness. Incorporate exercise into your usual daily activities. Any physical activity is good for your body and offers the wide range of benefits of exercise. If you have trouble exercising for exercise’s sake, find ways to incorporate movement into your daily life. For example, walk or bike to the places you need to go, put on some music and dance while you do your housework, do floor exercises during TV commercials or watch your favorite shows or listen to your favorite podcasts while working out on the treadmill. If your mindset, budget and living quarters allow it, you might even consider getting a dog in order to give a higher purpose to a long daily walk.
“Any physical activity is good for your body and offers the wide range of benefits of exercise.”Stay mindful of the benefits you’re seeing. Once you start seeing the results of exercising, keeping those in mind every day and paying attention to how exercise makes you feel can help motivate you to keep working out. Consider keeping an exercise journal and record your feelings before exercising, recount how you felt during your workout and note the benefits you’re enjoying as a result of getting regular exercise. Find an exercise buddy. Having an exercise buddy can help you stay motivated, and it gives you the opportunity to help motivate your buddy as well, therefore reinforcing your own will to work out. Whether you join a class together, embark on a daily walk or play a game of tennis or one-on-one basketball, having someone to work out with can help keep you interested in the activity for the duration of the workout while offering a meaningful social encounter, which is another important factor in recovery. Sign up for a race. If you enjoy running, consider signing up and training for a 5k, 10k or even a half or full marathon. Races offer a concrete goal to work toward, and they give many people a high level of personal satisfaction regardless of their race time. Exercise is a powerful component of any recovery plan. Its benefits for mind, body and spirit are clear and proven, and a regular exercise plan can make a big difference in your attitude toward recovery and your motivation for long-term abstinence. If you’re starting an exercise plan after being inactive for some time, or if you have special health considerations, talk with your doctor before starting an exercise regimen. Then, get out there, move your body and enjoy the physical and mental fruits of your labors as they bring you closer to long-term successful recovery.
- (1) Study: Exercise Has Long-Lasting Effect on Depression. (2000, September). Retrieved from https://today.duke.edu/2000/09/exercise922.html
- (2) Sharma, A., Madaan, V. & Petty, F. D. (2006). Exercise for Mental Health. The Primary Care Companion to The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 8
- (2), 106. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1470658/
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- (4) Vanderbilt Study Shows Exercise Can Curb Marijuana Use and Cravings. (2011, March 4). Retrieved from http://www.mc.vanderbilt.edu/news/releases.php?release=2044
- (5) Study: Physical Activity Impacts Overall Quality of Sleep. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-news/study-physical-activity-impacts-overall-quality-sleep
- (6) Exercising to Relax. (2011, February). Retrieved from http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/exercising-to-relax
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- (9) Physical Activity for a Healthy Weight. (2015, May). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/physical_activity/
- (10) How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need? (2016, June 4). Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adults/index.htm
- (11) The Many Health Benefits of Dancing. (2014, November 20). Retrieved from http://www.berkeleywellness.com/fitness/active-lifestyle/article/many-health-benefits-dancing
- (12) Health Benefits of Water-Based Exercise. (2016, May 4). Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/swimming/swimmers/health_benefits_water_exercise.html
- (13) How Does Nature Impact Our Wellbeing? (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/enhance-your-wellbeing/environment/nature-and-us/how-does-nature-impact-our-wellbeing
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