The significance of adhering to a regular exercise regimen to maintain sobriety is often underestimated. Physical activity helps people with dependency issues by creating new healthy coping mechanisms.
When combined with other forms of treatment, exercise can effectively deter relapse by establishing a dependable routine, occupying idle time, managing mental well-being, and fostering increased self-confidence. Although regular exercise might seem daunting, even minimal movement can yield the benefits of consistent physical activity.
In this article, we will learn about the impact of exercise on both the mind and body, explain why exercise is one of the most potent tools for achieving and maintaining sobriety, and provide guidance on how to start experiencing the advantages of exercise today.
How Does Exercise Influence the Mind and Body?
During the recovery journey from substance use disorder, exercise offers many benefits for both physical and mental health. The intricate connection between physical and mental well-being becomes apparent when we engage in physical activity, allowing us to enhance both aspects simultaneously. Let’s delve deeper into regular exercise’s advantages for physical and mental health.
Benefits for Mental Health
Regular exercise comes with several mental health advantages. Physical activity triggers the release of endorphins, which interact with the brain’s receptors, reducing pain perception. Unlike addictive substances, the natural activation of the receptors using exercise does not lead to dependence. Consequently, exercise can generate positive euphoria and optimism after each workout.
Healthy mental health habits are vital for individuals in recovery, as conditions such as depression and anxiety commonly co-occur with addiction. Engaging in exercise during recovery is pivotal in improving mental health and fostering a more positive outlook. Furthermore, exercise enhances cognitive functions, learning abilities, and judgement skills.
Benefits for Physical Health
In addition to mental health benefits, physical activity aids in weight management and strengthens bones and muscles. Exercise is particularly valuable for individuals recovering from substance use, as weight fluctuations often accompany recovery, particularly for those who quit smoking and experience increased appetite due to nicotine replacement therapy.
The physical health benefits reach beyond weight management. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), engaging in at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, certain types of cancer, and other chronic ailments. Regular exercise can also help develop new nerve connections in the brain, facilitating healing after prolonged substance use.
How Does Exercise Facilitate Addiction Recovery?
Recent studies have revealed that committing to a weekly exercise routine reduces substance use and, in some cases, complete abstinence. But how exactly does exercise support sobriety?
Here are eight ways in which regular exercise promotes recovery:
Exercise Suppresses Cravings
Research indicates that regular exercise leads to increased numbers of abstinent days. In a study, participants who engaged in regular moderate aerobic exercise for 12 weeks experienced significantly better substance use outcomes than the control group.
Exercise enhances the circulation of blood to muscles and the brain. This nourishment increases energy levels throughout the day and makes daily tasks easier to complete. Higher energy levels often contribute to a greater ability to resist the urge to use drugs. When coupled with cognitive-behavioural therapy, exercise becomes an effective method for aiding smoking cessation by addressing psychological and physiological needs that nicotine replacement therapy alone cannot fulfil. Consequently, many former smokers embrace exercise as an aid in quitting.
Exercise Provides Structure and Routine
The power of regular exercise in curbing cravings lies in its ability to establish a structured routine. Enrolling in exercise classes or planning a workout schedule creates a concrete daily regimen. Participating in group classes or sharing your exercise commitment with others helps maintain accountability and encourages adherence to the routine.
You can structure your daily activities by designating specific times for exercise sessions throughout the day. For instance, engaging in early morning workouts minimises the temptation to stay up late or consume alcohol the night before. Similarly, exercising after work can be a reason to skip social drinking. Adhering to a daily structure tailored to moments of vulnerability simplifies the task of staying on track.
Exercise Occupies Time and Thoughts
In the early stages of recovery, individuals often find themselves with substantial free time since they are no longer preoccupied with thoughts of acquiring or using substances. How this newfound spare time is utilised can make a significant difference.
Keeping oneself engaged during addiction recovery, especially in the initial phases, is highly beneficial. Following a regular exercise routine eliminates the need to make impulsive decisions regarding how to spend idle time, a period during which poor choices are often made.
Having an exercise goal can also serve as a distraction from cravings and redirect thoughts toward constructive activities. For example, training for a half marathon entails much more than just participating in the race itself. The months leading up to the event involve mapping out a progression path, planning pacing strategies, setting goal times, and engaging in practice races.
Exercise Alleviates Stress
Stress reduction is crucial for recovering from substance use disorder, as withdrawal from drugs or alcohol can intensify it. Exercise directly impacts the brain region responsible for managing stress and anxiety. Exercise has been shown to reduce stress, enhance self-awareness, and provide mental relief.
Physical activity allows one to shift their focus from stressors to the movements of their body, stimulating the release of hormones that alleviate pain. Regular exercise helps regulate stress hormone levels, particularly adrenaline, which plays a role in the fight-or-flight response.
Exercise Enhances Mood
In addition to stimulating serotonin production, exercise stimulates the release of endorphins and dopamine, which play a vital role in regulating mood.
Exercise naturally triggers the release of dopamine, often called the “happiness hormone.” This is what the post-workout euphoria, commonly known as the “runner’s high”, is.
Rather than relying on harmful substances, exercise provides a healthy avenue for experiencing a surge of happiness and revitalising one’s outlook on life.
Exercise Improves Self-Image
Exercise contributes to positive body image and increases self-esteem, whether the goal is weight loss or muscle gain. Taking care of one’s body increases self-confidence and creates a sense of well-being.
Holistic Treatment At White River Manor
At White River Manor, our team of committed professionals is dedicated to providing individualised, high-quality care and support to you and your loved ones.
Our therapists, with years of experience, lead our dependency program and can help you deal with dependency issues. We can also help confront co-occurring mental health issues, from anxiety and depression to trauma, creating a more stable foundation.
Contact us today to take the next step towards a healthier, more balanced life.