The Benefits of Exercise in Addiction Recovery

Some of the best things we can do for ourselves are oftentimes some of the hardest things to get ourselves to do. Some people love going for a jog, others can’t fathom how anyone runs a 5k on Thanksgiving. Exercise is beneficial for anyone, but it is especially helpful and important for those in recovery.

Most people in active addiction have great intentions about working out or doing the type of exercise they “like”. But, when it comes time after a long night of using or drinking, it seems nearly impossible to stick to a regular workout schedule. Now that you are sober, the goal of exercising can be much more attainable.

Benefits of Exercise in Recovery from Addiction

There are many physical and mental benefits of exercise in addiction recovery. By developing a healthy exercise routine you can continue moving forward in your journey. Here are just some of the benefits to consider.

It’s a Good Use of Time

When you are in active addiction, you are most likely devoting a large amount of time and energy to using substances. In recovery, you can suddenly find yourself with an excess of time. It is important to fill that space with productive habits and activities. Exercise is a great way to channel that energy in recovery. Lifting weights, running, yoga, or practicing a sport is a habit that you can participate in daily, and these types of activities can also help you blow off some steam.

Increased Mindfulness

Practicing mindfulness and meditation can help you better manage cravings and urges, especially in early recovery. Exercise is a great way to develop mindfulness and meditation skills. A daily jog or walk can also turn into a daily meditation practice with the right awareness. Simply focusing on the present moment, your surroundings, how your body is feeling, and even how your feet feel on the pavement can help develop the skills needed for recovery and growth. Adding music to the mix can also add to the relaxation experienced from mindfulness while exercising.

Improved Brain Function

If you were into fitness before addiction, you know how effective a good workout is at lifting your mood. But you probably didn’t realize just how far the brain-boosting benefits go. There are many ways exercise improves brain function, like:

  • Releasing endorphins, which reduces pain and increases one’s sense of well-being.
  • Releasing serotonin, which decreases anxiety, lifts the mood, and promotes sound sleep.
  • Releasing dopamine, which plays an essential role in preventing mood disorders and addictions.
  • Increasing BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), which creates new neurons and strengthens existing nerve cells.
  • Increasing glutamate and GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), which helps regulate emotions and concentration.

Regular exercise also improves your brain’s resilience to stress. By regularly exposing your brain to manageable amounts of physical stress, exercise improves your body’s ability to regulate its stress response. As a result, you’re more capable of taking psychological stresses in stride.

Healthy Friendships

When you’re in active addiction you’re often surrounded by friends that are also involved with unhealthy addictive behavior. It is important in addiction recovery to develop relationships with friends who live a healthy lifestyle. An easy way to meet new friends is to get involved with social exercise groups, such as a team sport or running club. This will also keep you motivated, so working out continues to be a priority.

Creating a Wellness-Focused Lifestyle in Recovery

While exercise is an incredible tool for building a strong mind, it’s no cure-all for mental health problems. If you’re struggling in your addiction recovery, pair your exercise regimen with professional treatment and other actions that promote good mental health such as getting good sleep, implementing a healthy diet, finding meaningful work, spending time in positive environments and with positive people, and practicing mindfulness.

An active lifestyle doesn’t come easy to everyone. But sometimes, the things that keep us from working out — bad moods, high stress and low self-esteem — are actually a sign that we need to get moving. If recovery has been a challenge, it’s time to see if physical fitness can help it get back on track.

At Williamsville Wellness, we understand the importance of exercise in addiction recovery which is why we make it an integral part of our addiction treatment programs. Our residential treatment center contains an indoor gym with a variety of exercise machines and equipment, as well as a massage chair and sauna. We’re also located on a 400+ acre property with plenty of nature to complete exercise outdoors when the weather is nice. Contact us today to learn more about our facility and residential treatment programs.

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