The Importance of Exercise When Recovering from an Addiction

Anyone can get off-track in life, but when you’re recovering from an addiction it’s especially important to find ways to stay on the right path.  Addiction harms your body and mind, as well as those you love.  Here is some advice for engaging a healthy pathway and sticking to it.

Mental and physical damage. Are you or is someone you love fighting to get on track?  Addiction is not only life-altering, it causes harm to the person abusing the substance.  Some research reflects there are several medical consequences to someone suffering with an addiction.  Those with an addiction are at higher risk for physical issues such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and stroke and mental disorders such as anxiety, depression and schizophrenia.  And, those around them can be greatly affected.  Not only do they suffer seeing someone they care about make poor choices, they can experience physical symptoms from secondhand smoke and are at an increased risk for infectious diseases.

Reversing damage.  Thankfully, as Huffington Post points out, physical harm from addiction can be reversed through exercise.  For instance, alcohol abuse can damage certain parts of the brain and its functionality, but through exercise, damage can be repaired.  Along those same lines, some studies show exercise helps support the addict’s recovery by bolstering abstinence, reducing withdrawal symptoms, and lowering anxiety and depression.

Linked concerns. Substance abuse often goes hand-in-hand with mental health issues.  For some, the mental health issue may precede the addiction, and substance abuse developed as an unhealthy coping mechanism.  For others, addiction can spur or exacerbate a mental health issue.  Regardless of which comes first, it’s not at all unusual for an addict to suffer simultaneously with another mental health disorder.

For instance, as Swift River explains, many people with addiction disorders also suffer with anger issues.  One may be struggling, angry with work or other life situations, and use a substance in an attempt to feel better.  On the flip side, using certain substances, such as cocaine, can incite aggressive behavior in someone.  Both anger issues and addiction benefit greatly from involvement in a fitness routine.

Exercise provides an outlet for negative energy while also helping reverse the damage from abusing substances.  Working out can improve your outlook and make you feel better as well, reducing the desire to self-medicate.  Those with co-occurring issues are most likely to prosper by treating both issues simultaneously.

Getting started. Are you ready to start exercising, but don’t know where to begin?  Starting a new exercise program is daunting, but with good planning you can remain on the right track.  The American Heart Association recommends beginning with a simple walking program.  Wear appropriate gear so you can stay comfortable, and start slowly, around 30 minutes or so per session, or whatever your health care professional suggests.  You might even grab a friend to go along, since having a workout buddy helps many people stay motivated.

When you feel more fit, look for additional activities you enjoy, such as jogging, dancing, hiking or cycling.  Add variety to your plan and incorporate fitness into your lifestyle.  By participating in a program you look forward to, you’ll find it easier to maintain your workout routine.  However, don’t set the bar too high!  Set reasonable goals, and cut yourself a break now and then, such as when weather is terrible or you aren’t feeling well.  Log your sessions in a notebook or on your phone, and reward yourself for good behavior!  You deserve it.

And if it’s your loved one who needs to engage in a fitness routine, one idea is to suggest you participate together.  It’ll be good for both of you!

Fit for recovery. Recovering from a substance abuse disorder is tough, but a fitness program can help.  Exercise improves how you feel and can reverse damage.  Find a routine you enjoy and make it part of your lifestyle so you can stay on the right track!

Constance Ray

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