Maintaining a healthy lifestyle with a regular fitness routine does more than create visible results. Physical fitness transforms your body, inside and out, which means it’s also one of the best things you can do to facilitate addiction recovery. When you’re in recovery, creating a new life without substances involves caring for your body, mind, and soul. All of these parts of you are affected by addiction, so caring for your whole self is necessary to stay clean and sober.
How Does Being Active Help You Succeed in Recovery?
On a physical level, doing an aerobic activity that increases your heart rate changes your brain chemistry by releasing the natural feel-good chemicals called endorphins. Sometimes called a “runner’s high,” this physiological effect of exercise is an incredible mood boost. When someone is addicted, they depend on substances to get that feel-good effect, but in recovery, exercise gives your brain that same reward in a much healthier way. This may be one reason why developing a regular exercise routine helps many people in recovery manage cravings because the activity replaces the desire to use to a substance.
In addition to giving you a mood boost, physical fitness also reduces stress, making it a great coping skill for managing stressors and triggers when you’re in recovery. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, exercise decreases tension, helps you sleep better, and builds self-esteem. Dealing with stress can zap your energy, but exercise gives you back the energy your body needs to make managing stress easier. Physical fitness also makes you feel good about yourself. Whether you’re just starting your first workout or you see yourself achieving your fitness goals, getting stronger is a huge accomplishment. Gaining this self-confidence builds your belief that you are capable of staying clean and sober by showing you that you have the ability to overcome challenges.
What Is the Best Type of Exercise for Recovery?
Any exercise will make you healthier, and the best exercise is something you enjoy and can commit to doing regularly. However, some types of exercise maximize the positive impacts that benefit recovery. Aerobic exercise like running gets your heart rate up to release those endorphins, and the repetitive nature of running is also meditative, which helps decrease stress and refocus your mind in a positive way. Swimming is another exercise that has the same meditative quality, and moving through water is also very relaxing. According to the Huffington Post, many people in recovery find that yoga helps them practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is a powerful tool that builds awareness and self-reflection so you gain a better understanding of your habits and your choices.
How Do You Maintain a Healthy Routine for the Long Term?
The key to making both physical fitness and recovery stick long term is integrating an overall healthy lifestyle into your regular routine. You won’t get the same benefit from hitting the gym only once in a while. But when you schedule and commit to workouts as part of your daily life, it can help structure your day so that you aren’t as tempted to use drugs or alcohol. If you struggle with how to make this commitment, try different types of exercise to find something that is fulfilling for you and works with your schedule. Making good nutrition and self-care part of your wellness lifestyle will also support your fitness goals and make it easier to keep them. The great thing about starting these habits is that when you take better care of your body, you feel better about yourself, which motivates you to keep going.
The hardest part is getting started. Once you do, maintaining a healthy lifestyle gets easier as this positive cycle becomes a way of life. Creating this new way of life makes you stronger—physically, mentally, and even spiritually—for staying on the right track in recovery.
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