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Sweating the Small Stuff: How Exercise Can Promote Better Recovery

July 1, 2016 - , , , - 0 Comments

As a recovering addict, you may feel that struggling with your addiction every day uses all your energy and that you do not have the energy to spare for an exercise program. Actually, though, exercise has been shown to help prevent addictions and can be an important component of your recovery program. Instead of thinking as exercise as something added on to your recovery, you should think of it as one more step.

Endorphins and Substance Cravings

One of the most difficult parts of the ongoing process of recovery is avoiding the lure of addictive substances. Most addictive substances stimulate the pleasure centers of your brain. Even if you know intellectually that this pleasure is only temporary and can destroy your life and the lives of your family and loved ones, it can be hard to resist the high that comes from the substances to which you are addicted. Luckily, the natural endorphins that your body generates during aerobic exercise produce a somewhat similar effect on your brain without the unhealthy effects of addictive substances. You can use this similarity as a way to deal with cravings. When you experience a craving for an addictive substance, engage in 15 to 20 minutes of aerobic exercise by going for a walk or even just dancing to music in your home. The endorphins you generate while exercising will give you a healthy “high” that will satisfy your cravings while improving rather than harming your health.

Exercising for Recovery

A regular exercise program not only improves your general health, but its positive effects on mood and metabolism may help with your recovery process. The key to using exercise as part of your recovery is moderation/ This means taking small steps to create an exercise routine rather than overdoing exercise or turning exercise into a substitute addiction. As your body may have been weakened by years of substance abuse and malnutrition, start an exercise program gradually and gently. Walking is inexpensive, convenient, and easy on your body. Once you can walk for at least a full mile comfortably, you can start either extending your walking distance or increase your pace to a jog. Indoor stationary cycling or riding a bicycle are also good aerobic exercises. Explore options such as canoeing, snowshoeing, Nordic skiing, hiking or other outdoor exercises for an extra mood boost from sunshine and the uplifting quality of natural scenery.

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