Because addiction is a chronic disease, addiction recovery is a life-long process. This process involves suppressing the old ways people dealt with stress, like drinking, as well as physical healing. Fitness can be an important aid to addiction recovery.
Exercise and Good Feelings
After a long period of abusing drugs or alcohol to feel better, people may forget that there are other ways to feel good. The brain’s system for creating feelings of pleasure may become so chemically overloaded by drugs that natural pleasures cannot compare. However, a commitment to exercise gives recovering addicts the opportunity to cultivate natural rewards, which means that people can feel pleasure again without abusing drugs. During strenuous physical activity, the body releases endorphins, which temporarily block feelings of pain and create feelings of wellbeing. And, unlike drug or alcohol abuse, the process of creating this chemical reward reinforces an activity that is naturally beneficial.
How Exercise Promotes Health
Because the social and financial costs of addiction are so high, people often overlook the damage that drug abuse does to a user’s physical health. But, addiction recovery is a time to recover health, be it psychological, relational or physical. Fitness can benefit many areas of health that substance abuse may have damaged, like the following systems:
- Mental health – Addicts are at an increased risk for depression both before and during recovery, but exercises reduces this risk
- Cardiovascular health – Substance abuse can damage the heart, but aerobic exercise makes the heart stronger, which minimizes the risk of harm
- Healthy liver – The liver can be damaged as it filters out large amounts of alcohol and other drugs. Developing nonalcoholic fatty liver disease during addiction recovery could make matters worse, but fitness can reduce its risks.
Improved health is one of the many benefits of recovery from addiction. Fitness helps people make the most of this improvement.
How Exercise Restructures Life
Many people believe that their lives are too busy for exercise, but those beginning addiction recovery may find that ending substance abuse leaves a void of time. Exercise and the pursuit of fitness can be a productive way to occupy some of this recently liberated time, as the benefits of filling time with physical activity can include the following examples:
- Fun – Fitness activities, such as bicycling, running and swimming, alleviate boredom while providing a workout
- Social interaction – Team sports and exercise classes can also function as social groups. Forging new social bonds with sober people is beneficial for recovery.
- Structure – Appointed workout times add psychological checkpoints throughout the day. Removing idle time makes it easier to avoid thinking about using drugs or alcohol.
Fitness contributes to the structure of an individual’s life, which will end up supporting all aspects of recovery.
Fit in With Recovery
If you are suffering from addiction, you have so much to gain by calling our toll-free helpline. Our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day to discuss treatment options with you, so reach out to them right now for professional support.