Exercise is known for being good for the mind and body, but did you know that it can also be a powerful tool for addiction recovery? When paired with evidence-based rehabilitation strategies, exercise can be a powerful, natural tool to help you maintain sobriety and feel better, both physically and mentally.
While starting an exercise routine may be intimidating, the good news is that you don’t need to hit the gym for hours each day to see results. A brisk walk for 30 minutes each day, moving fast enough to get your heart rate up and make you feel slightly out of breath, will help you reap all the benefits of exercise.
Exercise Can Curb Cravings
Moderate exercise, at least 150 minutes each week, can help reduce the cravings for many types of drugs, including alcohol, cocaine, methamphetamine, and opioids. Working out moves blood through the heart faster and increases the blood flow to your muscles. The increased nourishment of vitamins, minerals, and oxygen-rich blood strengths your body and helps you naturally release energy throughout the day. Your higher energy can help you resist urges to drink or use.
Exercise is especially beneficial for people who choose Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) as part of their recovery treatment.
Working Out Provides Structure and Routine
Many relapse prevention strategies, including those we help clients create at Hickory Treatment Centers, emphasize the importance of creating a healthy routine. Boredom and “downtime” can trigger many people to use drugs or drink, so having a predictable routine, including regular exercise, can help you remain accountable for your healthy choices.
Early morning exercise, for example, can help you avoid the urge to drink at night since you don’t want to be hungover for your workout in the morning. Or, if you choose an evening exercise class, you can avoid using it at night because you have your workout to do.
Exercise is a Natural Stress Reliever
Reducing stress is critical for anyone in recovery, whether you’ve been clean for 5 days or 500 days. Exercise produces endorphins and dopamine, which are natural stress-relieving and mood-boosting hormones. Both low-impact and intensity exercise, like walking or yoga, and high-intensity exercise, like a Zumba class or lifting weights, provide the same home release, so you may wish to try several different kinds of exercise, to find something you enjoy and you’ll stick with.
When you exercise, you focus on the movement of your body, concentrating on what you’re doing and focusing on the present, being mindful and in the moment. This can help balance your stress levels and help you learn to be more present and mindful. As you concentrate on what you’re doing, your body may reduce the production of cortisol, the stress hormone. If you’re less stressed in your daily life, you may be less tempted to turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with stress.
Exercise is a Natural Mood Booster
After about 20 minutes of exercising with an elevated heart rate, your body starts producing excess amounts of serotonin, the “happy hormone,” dopamine, the reward hormone released when you accomplish something, and endorphins, natural mood boosters that alleviate depressive symptoms. Mood swings are very common for people in early recovery, as their brains and bodies are re-adjusting to regulating their moods and emotions without alcohol or drugs.
Do You Need Addiction Recovery Services?
Hickory Treatment Centers provides evidence-based drug and alcohol therapy in a compassionate environment. We support clients, no matter how severe their addiction, with several types of programs to meet your needs. Contact us today for an assessment of your needs and to learn about our therapy programs.