5 of the Best Exercises for Addiction Recovery
It can be hard to figure out what the best exercises for addiction recovery are.
Exercise is a central pillar of health. The benefits that regular physical exercise can bring to your physical and mental wellbeing are astounding. Because of this, it can play a very useful role in addiction recovery; it can give you a great many advantages to make your path easier and more effective, restoring you to full health. It can help to prevent relapse and shows promise as a viable potential treatment for substance abuse.
In fact, most rehabs and treatment centres now have fitness facilities. Many treatment programs use it as a large part of their plans.
But, as above, it can be hard to know what to do. There are a dizzying number of exercise styles, all with their own requirements. Add addiction recovery into the mix and it all becomes a little more complex.
Don’t fear. We’ll set you straight. By the end of this article, you should have a good grasp of the benefits of exercise during recovery, as well as a good idea about the kinds of exercise you might want to look into trying.
The Benefits of the Best Exercises for Addiction Recovery
Various exercises can be great for addiction recovery. There are plenty of benefits that anybody could gain from living a healthy, active lifestyle with a good amount of exercise in it. This is especially true if you’re in recovery.
Exercise cheers you up. This has been a bit of a truism in the past. Nowadays, we know it to be a fact – exercise improves your mood. And this is where we get a good first glimpse into the best kinds of exercises for addiction: any kind of physical activity will release the endorphins and other hormones in your body needed to make you happier.
Any form of exercise can also help to reduce the signs and symptoms of depression, stress and anxiety.
Addiction recovery tends to be incredibly stressful for multiple reasons. It tends to interweave with depression and anxiety. Anything that can help you to overcome all of these is therefore an incredibly useful tool.
Exercise is key to getting a good night’s sleep. Regular exercise will enable you to nod off quicker and also get a better quality of sleep. We all need plenty of sleep (7-9 hours per night) in order to rest our bodies and brains. Good quality sleep can lead to improved mood and decreased stress, whilst also giving you more energy.
In addiction recovery, your body and brain have far more to recover from than most people. Getting good quality sleep is vital for maintaining physical and mental well-being. Arguably, then, the best exercises for addiction recovery are any that help you to sleep at night.
This ties into improved sleep. By improving your quality of sleep, you will improve your body’s ability to heal and rejuvenate itself. You will have more energy.
This is a non-acute, long-term benefit. There are also acute, short-term benefits to your energy levels to be gained from regular exercise. Exercise – any exercise – improves your circulation. It delivers more oxygen and nutrients to your muscles and brain. It also spikes the hormones that keep you awake and alert. All of this combines to give you plenty of energy.
Relief From Cravings
One of the best things that exercise can do for you in addiction recovery is give you something of a distraction. This is vital when you’re experiencing cravings or fears of relapse. Exercise can go some way towards filling the void left in recovery. It can take your mind off stressful thoughts.
Exercise can also lend to your life structure, which can help you to maintain the course you want. Building a routine around exercise – going to the gym three evenings a week, cycling home from work, going out for a daily morning stroll, going to regular fitness classes, and so on – can help you feel grounded and in control.
Improve Your Overall Wellbeing
The best exercise forms can do a lot for your overall well-being through addiction recovery. This list is hardly exhaustive. I could write whole books on the benefits to be gained from regular exercise. Plenty of people have, in fact. However, I just want to spell out the kinds of things it can do for you and how it can help your recovery.
Promoting a sense of overall well-being plays well into this. There are myriad ways, large and small, in which exercise can improve your mental and physical well-being. This all amounts to a generalised sense of simply being holistically healthier. It can improve your immune function, give you more energy and greater endurance, promote good posture, keep you safe from injury, especially long term, improve cognitive function over time, drastically decrease your risk of most major diseases… the list goes on.
During addiction, we tend to experience the inverse of this. Our overall well-being suffers. All of the above tend to get neglected, weakening our immune systems and physicality, leaving us open to diseases, robbing us of cognitive ability, and so on. Exercise can redress this balance. It can leave you better off than ever.
The best forms of exercise for addiction will give you all of these benefits and more.
Best Exercises for Addiction Recovery
These are suggestions for five forms of physical activity that represent some of the best exercises for addiction recovery. However, do note that any form of physical activity is good, especially if you currently have a sedentary lifestyle. Moreover, exercise selection is personal – if you feel inspired to take part in a form of exercise not mentioned below, go for it, try it out.
Do note, also, that where people have used harder drugs, they tend to benefit from more intense forms of exercise.
1. Walking is one of the best exercises for addiction recovery
Everybody should walk for a good chunk of time every day. Walking is one of the most accessible forms of exercise going, is free, and can be incredibly rewarding. It’s also one of the best forms of exercise for addiction recovery when you’re feeling a bit worn thin to try your hand at anything too challenging or involved.
Simply step out your front door and try a half-hour stroll through your local park or around your block. It will get your blood pumping, will bring you all of the benefits we have mentioned, and should be incredibly relaxing.
Do feel free to push things a bit further as and when you feel you can. A stroll is good as a daily practice. However, try getting into the great outdoors for some good hiking, if this is available to you.
Simply being amongst nature can improve your mood and sense of well-being. Sunny weather will also mean a good dose of vitamin D. Hiking is also generally a harder form of walking, so you can work on your fitness and improve your endurance and lung capacity.
This being said, it needn’t be too intense. You don’t need to pound away for hours or invest in expensive, specialist equipment. Just choose a route, pack a picnic, and grab your trainers.
2. Yoga can keep you calm and strong
Yoga is one of the best exercise systems going for full body strength and mobility, and for the mind-body connection. It is one of the best exercises for addiction recovery.
Yoga will help you to relax and stay mindful, whilst also strengthening your whole body and working to a small degree on your cardiovascular system.
There are plenty of types of yoga. If you do your research and find one that sounds good for you go for it. Otherwise, ask at your local yoga studio, if you have one (most big cities will be well provided with them), or at your local leisure centre, who will at least supply a style called ashtanga. Alternatively, search online. Yoga is brimming with good classes you can perform at home.
3. Swimming can build you up safely
Swimming is a lovely form of exercise for all fitness and health levels, making it easily on of the best exercises for addiction recovery. It is low impact, meaning that it is easy on your joints. This is especially important for older athletes or those, like plenty of people who have come through addiction, who have had periods of not caring for their joints and/or taking in proper nutrition.
Swimming also works both your muscular system, building new muscle and improving your strength, and your cardiovascular system, improving the strength of your heart and lungs and, with it, your circulation.
If you’re unsure about swimming, try a swimming class. If performing laps doesn’t sound good, try an aerobics class. Most large leisure centres host them.
4. Dance can be fun and rewarding
Dance is a great form of exercise – in part because it doesn’t really feel like exercise! It is best one of the best exercises for addiction recovery for a few reasons. Firstly, it’s a good form of exercise in general. Most dance forms will help you to improve your posture and muscularity, and improve your cardiovascular fitness (a lot!)
Secondly, it can be hard to get out dancing when you’re going through recovery. Bars and clubs where you might usually dance are hotspots for drink and drugs – all things you are likely trying to avoid. A class is a safe space, however. You can stay sober whilst enjoying your body’s physicality.
Finally, recovery can be alienating. Dance classes are a great way to meet new people and make new, positive friends.
5. Lifting weights can help you build a better you
‘Weightlifting’ is a generic term covering a few different disciplines, including body building, Olympic weightlifting, powerlifting, and strong man. It can also mean none of these – it can simply mean getting down to your local gym to do a circuit of the machines.
Whichever form you pick, you will be performing by far one of the best exercises for addiction recovery. Weight lifting is a form of resistance training – moving your muscles against resistance. This will help you to build strength and musculature. You can perform it to also bring your cardiovascular system into the mix, for instance by going for circuits.
It will help you to build your confidence whilst also delivering all of the benefits listed above.
If it looks a bit overwhelming to start, that’s perfectly normal. Most big cities will host some form of weightlifting classes in specialist studios. Alternatively, you can try a personal trainer if cost allows. Or you can go to circuit and HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) classes at your local gym for many of the same benefits.
The best exercises for addiction recovery are often not exercises
Exercise is only a part of your recovery journey. It is an auxiliary form of treatment. In this respect, it works incredibly well. However, by itself, it will not be enough to support you through your recovery.
I would always recommend a proper treatment program. Consult your healthcare provider for treatment options. Speak to our teams here at Recoverlution. Look into various form of therapy (we have lots of information on different types in our Wellness Hub). With these in place, get your sweats on.
Try out some of the best exercises for addiction recovery as part of your treatment plan.
Benefits of exercise - https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/exercise-health-benefits/