Staying physically active during addiction recovery helps occupy the mind, strengthen the body and significantly decrease the likelihood of relapse. Staying mentally active through favorite pastimes, work, hobbies and helping others gives the person in recovery less time to think about using drugs or alcohol and more time to think about all the things a life free of substance abuse has to offer.
Addiction can leave the body depleted of good nutrition and other healthy habits, like regular exercise, fall by the wayside. During the beginning days of treatment, getting the right nutrition counseling and starting a program of regular physical activity can strengthen the body for the journey ahead.
Dealing with intense cravings and withdrawal symptoms, as well as coping with the emotional baggage addiction leaves behind, takes a great deal of physical strength. Working to heal the body, mind and spirit means the entire person is healing from the inside out.
Although addiction is a disease of the mind, the side effects of using drugs and alcohol can be devastating on the body. Many addicts suffer from malnutrition due to spending most of their resources on their drug of choice. Drug and alcohol abuse increases the risk for cardiovascular disease, certain cancers and causes a host of other medical problems.
During addiction treatment, doctors, therapists and other members of your rehab team will help you learn how to care for your body in ways that will increase your likelihood of rehab success. Nutrition education and exercise programs help you learn to make healthy food and activity choices. Over time, this strengthens your immune system, improves your overall state-of-mind and increases your ability to resist drug cravings.
According to the Mayo Clinic, regular exercise can boost your mood and improve all areas of your life. Here are some additional benefits regular physical activity provides:
- Weight control – Exercise helps maintain a healthy weight. Although those recovering from addiction often need to gain weight, once that benchmark is achieved, exercise can help you maintain a steady weight throughout your life.
- Exercise combats disease – Exercise boosts good cholesterol and decreases unhealthy triglycerides. This reduces the build up of plaque in your arteries, stabilizes blood pressure and reduces the risk of heart disease.
- Exercise improves mood – Daily exercise stimulates brain chemicals that leave you feeling relaxed and happy. This is especially helpful for dealing with intense withdrawal cravings and the depression often associated with addiction recovery.
- Exercise boosts energy – Fatigue can be a big part of addiction recovery. In the past, you may have reached for a drink or drug for a quick energy fix. Regular exercise boosts your energy naturally and prevents the crash that comes from artificial sources.
- Exercise promotes better sleep – Addiction affects every area of life, and that includes sleep. When quality sleep is interrupted, it makes saying “no” to drugs and alcohol more difficult. Regular exercise helps solve this problem by increasing your ability to fall asleep quicker and stay asleep longer. But don’t exercise too close to bedtime, as this may actually make you too energized to fall asleep.
Mental and Spiritual Recovery
As your body heals through regular physical activity and proper nutrition, your mind is healing as well. Drug and alcohol rehab addresses every aspect of your body, mind and spirit. When your body and mind are healthy, your spirit is refreshed and energized. A healthy mind lets you look at yourself with a less-critical eye. Healthy thoughts empower you to make better choices because you realize you deserve to live a happy life. An idle mind leaves room for self-doubt, self-loathing and the guilt that naturally comes with addiction. Part of this mental recovery is rediscovering favorite activities, spending time with loved ones and friends and helping others. Healthy activity leaves little time for the type of self-reflection that leads to depression. Feeling sad or lonely can lead to drug cravings to help you cope with these feelings, but keeping your mind busy on other, positive things helps you avoid temptation.
Mental recovery also involves focusing on your spirit. Many people find help through meditation, as well as 12-Step programs that encourage reliance on a Higher Power for help rather than simply trying to deal with addiction on your own. Whatever your religious or spiritual beliefs, rediscovering and nourishing this part of your life can strengthen your journey on the road to recovery.
Regular exercise, healthy eating and getting involved in positive activities helps heal your body, mind and spirit after addiction and during recovery. Treating the entire person, rather than just the addiction, is the best way to live life free from substance abuse.