How Getting Active and Healthy Keeps You Strong in Addiction Recovery by Constance Ray

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.

Photo credit: Pexels

Constance Ray

Constance Ray

Constance Ray started Recoverywell.org with the goal of creating a safe place for people to share how addiction has affected them, whether they are combating it themselves or watching someone they care about work to overcome it. The goal is to share stories of hope from survivors who know that the fight against addiction is one worth having, because no matter how it affects you, life can get better.

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5 thoughts on “How Getting Active and Healthy Keeps You Strong in Addiction Recovery by Constance Ray”

  1. You know I dig that post! If I may offer, as a recovering drunk of more than a quarter-century I can recommend cycling. It ticks off a lot of recovery boxes. 👍

    1. I was expecting your comment, Jim 😊 If I had written the post, I would have included cycling just because of you!! I hope you can forgive this slip and that you liked the post nonetheless 🤞

  2. Pingback: How Exercise Can Help You Beat Addiction - Hayver.com

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Lower Back

The Erector Spinae is not just one muscle, but a bundle of muscles and tendons. Paired, they run more or less vertically. It extends throughout the lumbar, thoracic and cervical regions, and lies in the groove to the side of the vertebral column.

Latissimus Dorsi

The latissimus dorsi is the larger, flat, dorsolateral muscle on the trunk, posterior to the arm, and partly covered by the trapezius on its median dorsal region.

Deltoids

The Deltoid muscle is the muscle forming the rounded contour of the shoulder. It is divided into three portions, anterior, lateral and posterior, with the fibers having different roles due to their orientation.

Infraspinatus

The Infraspinatus muscle is one of the four rotator cuff muscles crossing the shoulder joint and is commonly injured. It is the main external rotator of the shoulder joint.

Biceps

The Biceps brachii is  actually two separate bundles of muscles (heads). The two heads of the Biceps vary in length and as a result, are called the Short and the Long Biceps heads.

Triceps

The Triceps Brachii muscles  have three muscle heads: Lateral, Medial and Long head. Primarily responsible for the extension of the elbow joint. The lateral head is used for movements requiring occasional high-intensity force, while the medial fascicle enables more precise, low-force movements.

Forearm
(Anterior muscles)

The Pronator teres pronates the forearm, turning the hand posteriorly. If the elbow is flexed to a right angle, then pronator teres will turn the hand so that the palm faces inferiorly. It is assisted in this action by pronator quadratus.

Forearm
(Posterior muscles)

The Extensor Digitorum muscle helps in the movements of the wrists and the elbows. It extends the phalanges, then the wrist, and finally the elbow. It acts principally on the proximal phalanges. It tends to separate the fingers as it extends them.

Pecs

The pectoralis major makes up the bulk of the chest muscles in the male and lies under the breast in the female.

The pectoralis minor is a thin, triangular muscle, situated at the upper part of the chest, beneath the pectoralis major. 

Abs

The Rectus Abdominis is the most superficial of the abdominal muscles. It is this muscle which forms the six-pack shape! It is a paired muscle running vertically on each side of the anterior wall of the abdomen. There are two parallel muscles, separated by a midline band of connective tissue called the linea alba.

Obliques

The External Oblique is situated on the lateral and anterior parts of the abdomen. It is broad, thin, and irregularly quadrilateral. It is the largest and the most superficial (outermost) of the three flat muscles of the lateral anterior abdomen. 

Glutes

The gluteal muscles are a group of three muscles which make up the buttocks: the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus. The three muscles originate from the ilium and sacrum and insert on the femur. The functions of the muscles include extension, abduction, external rotation, and internal rotation of the hip joint.

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Quadriceps

The Quadriceps Femoris is the knee extensor muscle.  As a group, the quadriceps femoris is crucial in walking, running, jumping and squatting. It´s subdivided into four separate “heads”.

Hamstrings

A hamstring is any one of the three posterior thigh muscles in between the hip and the knee (from medial to lateral: semimembranosus, semitendinosus and biceps femoris). The hamstrings are quite susceptible to injury.

Lower Leg

The gastrocnemius and the soleus form what we know as calf. They are involved in activities such as walking, running, jumping… 

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Trapezius

The trapezius is a broad, flat and triangular muscle. The muscles on each side form a trapezoid shape. It is the most superficial of all the back muscles.

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