Exercise is an important part of addiction and mental health recovery, during and after the recovery process. It is an essential step that often gets overlooked. While therapy, counseling, and support groups are crucial steps in the recovery process, intergrading daily exercise will have transformative effects on the individual’s overall well-being. Daily exercise isn’t only about improving physical health, it also positively impacts the individual’s mental health, emotional health, and social activity, making it an essential tool for individuals seeking lasting recovery. In this blog, we will go over the many reasons why exercise is important in the pursuit of sustained sobriety and dive into why we make it a priority at our residential rehab center in Kaysville and how it improves the recovery process by restoring balance, reducing cravings, promoting self-care, boosting mood, and creating a sense of connection and purpose. Through this article, we aim to inspire and empower individuals who are on their recovery journey to acknowledge the immense power of exercise for their long-term well-being.
The Benefits of Daily Exercise During The Recovery Process
Depending on the addiction or mental health disorder the individual is dealing with, they may have experienced dramatic weight loss or weight gain. Being put in an organized, consistent exercise program helps individuals lose unhealthy weight that was put on or start to gain some weight and rebuild muscles that have been lost.
Improved Mood and Reduced Anxiety
Daily exercise plays a big part in improving an individual’s mood and reducing the anxiety that is often associated with recovery. When an individual participates in daily physical activity it releases endorphins that are known as “feel good” neurotransmitters that enhance mood and create a sense of well-being.
Enhanced Brain Function and Cognitive Abilities
Brain function and cognitive abilities are important for addiction and mental health recovery. Cognitive abilities like attention, memory, and behavior need to be addressed and treated. Although there are many other ways to treat these cognitive abilities like therapy, counseling, and support groups, physical activity plays a part in this healing process as it stimulates the brain and promotes the growth of new nerve cells which enhances neural connections. Physical activity also increases blood flow to the brain, which delivers oxygen and nutrients that are needed for optimal brain function.
Increased Energy Levels
When these endorphins are released, they also result in a boost of energy and feeling of alertness. This boost of energy can be rewarding for individuals that haven’t felt this sensation for some time. Physical activity also aids in increasing lung capacity and improving quality of sleep. When you increase your lung capacity, you allow for more oxygen to be delivered to your muscles and organs, which fuels the body and enhances endurance. When you improve your quality of sleep, you wake up feeling refreshed with more energy.
The first psychological benefit is stress relief and relaxation. When an individual is stressed and unrelaxed this can make it hard to focus during therapy, counseling sessions, and support groups. That is why it is important to participate in activities that reduce stress and promote relaxation. When an individual participates in daily exercise, they release those feel good endorphins which also aid in reducing stress. Reducing the stress in an individual going through addiction and mental health recovery allows them to focus during their recovery sessions and really be present in the moment, enhancing the overall recovery process.
The next benefit is improved self esteem. When an individual starts to recognize the changes their body is making from daily exercise, it significantly boosts their self esteem, giving them a sense of accomplishment. This also helps with the motivation to stay consistent until it eventually becomes a habit. The goal of implementing daily exercise into the recovery process is to not only improve everything talked about above, but also improve the individuals self esteem and create a healthy habit they can take with them that will help them achieve long-term sobriety once the recovery treatment is over.
Finally, daily exercise helps with being a distraction from cravings and addictive behaviors. When an individual has something fun and active to look forward to, it becomes a healthy distraction from the cravings and addictive behaviors that are often associated with addiction and mental health recovery.
Within a treatment program, daily exercises are performed in groups. This allows individuals to workout with other individuals that are reaching for the same goal. When you partake in physical activities every day with the same people, you build strong friendships. When these friendships are built, it creates motivation, accountability, and support from one another. Creating a supportive environment is an important part of recovery.
The Role of Daily Exercise in Long-Term Recovery
When it comes to relapse prevention there are two main things daily exercise helps with… and that’s providing a healthy coping mechanism and reducing the risk of boredom or stagnation.
First we will talk about why providing a healthy coping mechanism is important. Cravings will happen, they are a part of the recovery process and everyone goes through them, but the only way to overcome those cravings is to have an effective healthy coping mechanism in place that helps you focus on something else rather than your cravings. Daily exercise is a perfect example of a healthy coping mechanism that helps reduce cravings and temptations.
Boredom and stagnation is a risky spot to be in when trying to achieve long-term sobriety, when an individual is bored and has nothing to do, it can increase the possibility of those cravings and temptations happening, and when boredom is present, it allows for room to think about those cravings and the temporary sensation the substance or action provides, increasing the likelihood of a relapse. Daily exercise gives the individual something to focus on, look forward to, and keep themself busy with.
Establishing Healthy Habits
Healthy habits from daily exercise can refer to things like developing a routine and structure in daily life and fostering discipline and commitment.
When an individual creates a daily routine this gives them a sense of structure and order, this can help reduce stress and the feeling of uncertainty and provide the feeling of predictability and stability in their everyday lives.
Discipline and commitment is an important part of life. When somebody learns how to commit and be disciplined to one thing like daily exercise, that skill branches off into other areas of their life and starts to become a habit for everything they do. The development of this skill helps individuals stay consistent with their responsibilities to maintain long-term sobriety.
Tips for Incorporating Exercise into Daily Life
Start Small and Set Realistic Goals
The importance of starting small cannot be overlooked, although it would be nice to jump straight to the main big goal of let’s say for example you wanted to gain 50 pounds of muscle or lose 100 pounds of fat… but that isn’t realistic to accomplish in a short period of time. It is important to start small and set realistic goals. While it’s okay to think about the main big goal, you need to have smaller goals to accomplish along the way.
So for example let’s say your main goal is to lose 100 pounds. Set smaller goals like lose 5 pounds a month, or run a mile 15 seconds faster each week, etc… This will allow you to see progress, stay motivated, and enjoy the wins along the way.
Find Activities You Enjoy
Finding the activities you enjoy to do helps you stay motivated and consistent during your fitness journey. Daily exercises don’t have to consist of going to a gym and lifting weights. You can exercise doing many different things like hiking, biking, running, swimming, jumping rope, etc… Try new things and don’t be afraid to not like something, if you don’t enjoy a certain activity try something new until you find something you love to do.
Make it a Priority
Making your daily exercises a priority and not just something you’ll do if you have the time will help you build that discipline you need to make sure you get your exercises in. A tip to help you do this is you have to set yourself up for success, think about the time of day you have the least amount of responsibilities, and set your time to exercise at that time and commit to it. That time may be at 5am, and thats okay! You want to set the time to exercise at a time where you have the least amount of responsibilities and the least amount of excuses to miss. For example, if you set the time for 5am, what is your excuse you missed? The only excuse you probably have is you slept in.
Seek Support and Accountability
Think about getting a partner to join you on these daily exercises. Having a workout partner will help you stay consistent because you have someone counting on you to show up everyday. If you can’t find someone to join in on the exercises, find an accountability partner. An accountability partner is someone who holds you accountable and makes sure you’re doing what you say you are going to do. A fun thing to do with an accountability partner is set punishments. If you miss a gym day or miss an exercise, set up a punishment that you have to do if you miss.
Celebrate Progress and Stay Motivated
Going back to those small and realistic goals, when you reach those goals make sure you celebrate those wins. It is important to recognize the hard work you are putting in and reward yourself for being disciplined and staying consistent. Recognizing these wins will help you stay motivated to strive for more.