Using Exercise in Recovery

Recovery from addiction and co-occurring disorders, like trauma and depression, can involve replacing unhealthy habits with healthy ones. Like Cornerstone Healing Center in Scottsdale, AZ, many treatment facilities encourage clients to engage in healthy activities to enhance their overall quality of life. Recovery from addiction is much more than “getting sober” and “abstaining from drugs.” Instead, recovery is the process of committing to a lifestyle of health and wellness.

Exercise and physical activity are some of the most popular outlets for those in recovery. While the benefits to physical health are apparent, exercise can also help to:

  • Release pent-up emotions and anxiety
  • Improve focus and concentration
  • Build resiliency
  • Forge a healthy mindset
  • Improve social life

While exercise can provide significant benefits to those in recovery, one common pitfall might be over-exercising. During recovery, you will learn to balance all aspects of life to not substituting one form of addiction for another.

Creating a Healthy Exercise Routine

While in treatment for substance use disorder (SUD), establishing a routine is a cornerstone of many programs. Many people, both in and out of recovery, find that exercise helps them structure their daily routines. Exercise can help you get ready and focused for your day, take a midday break, or wind down after work and other obligations. 

While some people may feel that exercise is best in the morning, others might say after work is optimal. Ultimately, you need to do whatever is best for your schedule. After all, the best exercise routine is one that actually gets done! No matter how much or how little time you have, remember that even just 10-15 minutes of exercise is always better than none at all.

Find Activities That You Enjoy

Exercise can be nearly anything that gets you active and moving, from yoga and weight training to dance and sports. Some communities have adult sports leagues with various activities for all skill levels, like softball, pickleball, soccer, volleyball, and dodgeball. Other people enjoy getting outdoors for hiking, biking, kayaking, running, or a lunchtime stroll around the neighborhood. Some like to learn new skills, like karate, kickboxing, or parkour. Many activities and options are available for you to begin a new routine.

With the variety of activities available, you can find something that you enjoy. Many gyms include classes with their memberships. You can try new classes and workouts to break up the monotony and meet new people. Some boxing or karate gyms offer a free class to anyone interested — you can try a few out before committing to a membership. If you find something that you enjoy doing, you will be more likely to continue doing it. When exercise is fun and enjoyable, you are more likely to succeed in maintaining a routine.

Getting Started

If you are not sure where to get started or have not exercised in some time, start slowly. Do things like taking a short walk once a day or do some stretching each morning. You can also search YouTube for various beginner routines where you can go at your own pace along with the instructors in the video. As you establish a routine and build strength and endurance, you can increase your activity level or maintain whatever level suits you and the other areas of your life. 

Doing something healthy is always better than nothing, and being physically fit does not mean you have to be a bodybuilder or spend hours in the gym. At first, exercise might feel strenuous or like a chore. Manage your expectations by focusing on starting with just 10 minutes a day. Often, once people notice the benefits of exercise, the motivation to continue will come naturally.

Avoid Trading One Addiction For Another

Some people might allow exercise to consume their lives, which can act like trading one addiction for another. While exercise is usually healthy, you can get too much of a good thing. If you find that you are neglecting other areas of your life for the sake of exercise or notice detrimental physical health effects due to intense exercise, you might be replacing one addiction for another.

The best way to prevent using exercise as a new addiction is to continue to focus on all other aspects of your health and wellness. Remember that friends, family, therapy, group meetings, meaningful activities, hobbies, interests, etc., are all important. Balance and moderation are vital to leading a happy and successful life in recovery. Exercise can be one part of a comprehensive plan to increase your overall quality of life while combating addiction in recovery.

As we need to focus on all areas of our health and wellness, exercise can play a critical role in addiction recovery. Many people find that exercise routines can be therapeutic and help release pent-up emotions and anxieties. Many feel that these routines help them manage and relieve stress as they enter the gym or go for a walk at the end of a long day. Others find that exercise helps them find focus each morning, much like a mindfulness activity. Regardless, be sure to establish a routine that works for you and your lifestyle. If you start with too much too soon, you might become discouraged and quit your routine early. Many view recovery from addiction as a total commitment to a healthy and balanced life. At Cornerstone Healing Center in Scottsdale, AZ, we understand that exercise and fitness are just one of many aspects of a successful recovery program. To learn more, call us at (800) 643-2108.