The Benefits Of Physical Fitness For Addiction Recovery
Updated: Feb 26
Written by Brad Krause
Millions of Americans battle addiction every day; for some, the fight is a daily struggle brought on by stress, a mood disorder, or an undiagnosed mental health issue. For others, substance abuse is a way to escape the pressures of everyday life. No matter what the root cause is, addiction usually has similar effects and can lead to depression, problems at home, work, or school, and division in relationships with family and other loved ones.
These problems can make recovery very difficult, especially if there are children involved or if the individual affected is concerned about losing a job. Of course, addiction also affects your health in many ways and can exacerbate issues that were already present. Fortunately, there are several simple ways you can aid your recovery, including adopting physical fitness into your daily routine. Getting in 30 minutes of exercise per day can help you stay healthy physically and mentally at the same time; keep reading to find out how.
Choose convenience and set up a home gym
Diving into a new workout regimen can seem very challenging. Just like the recovery process, regular exercise requires motivation and commitment. The thought of going to the gym may bring you stress, but you can bypass a gym membership (and save some cash—the average membership costs $40 - $50 a month) by investing in some quality workout equipment to transform an area of your home or apartment into your own gym. This ease of accessibility will allow you to become more dedicated to your workouts, and the equipment doesn’t need to be shared with others. You can take your home gym a step further by installing features like a ceiling fan and a pull-up bar—though you may be better off leaving these jobs to a handyman. Handyman services generally range in cost from $174 to $602 in New York City.
Get enough sleep
Many individuals in addiction recovery have a hard time getting good sleep; some have relied on substances for years to help them rest, while others simply can’t turn off their brains and relax. Exercising every day will tire you out, but it will also relieve stress and anxiety to allow for a better quality of sleep. It’s important to find the right workout for your needs, however, especially if you have existing health issues. Walking, cardio, and weight-lifting workouts can all be beneficial without requiring too much equipment. Talk to your doctor before starting any new regimen.
Spend time with friends
Staying social while in recovery can be difficult; many people who have battled an addiction know they can’t continue down the same path with their old relationships, especially if they are with people who are a bad influence. But making new friends and connections can be hard when you’re wary of social situations in your newly sober lifestyle. Spending some quality time with friends and family members who support you and understand what you’ve been through is important, and exercise can help you do that. Ask a friend to join you for a run, or go for a hike with a sibling. Not only will this allow you to bond with your loved ones, it will give you some common ground on which to repair the relationship and make it strong.
Strengthen your mental health
Working out obviously helps you stay healthy physically, but it can also strengthen your mental health and wake up your brain cells, improving your cognitive and short-term memory abilities and reducing stress at the same time. It can also boost your confidence so that you can look forward to your recovery rather than feeling guilty or ashamed.
Learn to like yourself
Many individuals who have battled a substance abuse addiction have major issues with their self-esteem; even after making the decision to go into recovery and lead a sober lifestyle, they can sometimes still have problems seeing their own worth. Working out every day can be hugely beneficial to your self-esteem and can keep you motivated to stay on a sober and healthy path.
Learning the best ways to make your recovery work can be a long road, and there is no one right path. You may need to try several different types of exercise, or incorporate something you already love to do -- such as biking or swimming -- in order to maintain a routine. Tweak the details so that you can find success your own way, and talk to your doctor before starting any new regimen.
This article is a guest contribution from our friend Brad Krause of SelfCaring. After a stint in the corporate world, working 15-hour days at least 6 days per week, Brad realized he wasn't happy. He was tired, had no time to exercise, survived off of junk food and caffeine, and had no social life whatsoever. He says he realized he was "impacting his company's bottom line, but wasn't impacting anyone's life for the better, including his own." He quit and hasn't looked back since, realizing that helping others is his passion. We all have the potential to be the best versions of ourselves, he says, but it comes down to prioritizing our own wellness through self-care. Check out this other article by Brad on our blog.