The short answer is, yes. Those afflicted with addiction may want to consider the many benefits of incorporating regular exercise into their relapse prevention plan. For some forking over the money for a gym membership post treatment can be unrealistic; however, one doesn’t need to belong to a gym to enjoy the benefits of exercising. Research has shown that walking as little as 3 times per week for 15 minutes can produce positive results in terms of fitness and relapse prevention. While working out is not a replacement for attending rehab, outpatient, 12-step or smart recovery meetings, it can be a welcomed addition during and after.
Here are six key benefits exercise can have:
1. Improved Sleep
Many in early recovery struggle with sleep and without it we can become irritable and moody. Exercise works to tire us out a bit in a positive way which can lead the body to a restful night of sleep.
2. Improved Self-esteem
Exercise can improve self-esteem which is something many struggle with in early recovery. Seeing improvements in physical and mental health can lead to improved self-esteem.
3. Improved Confidence
As you stick with your exercise plan, even just a commitment to walk 15 minutes a day several days a week you will feel great knowing that you’ve stuck to your plan. You’ve kept your word to yourself and perhaps your loved ones, something often in active addiction one rarely does.
4. Better Time Management
Exercising regularly can lead to better time management in other areas of your life. Following a set exercise schedule takes discipline and using this skill in other areas of your life including discipline in attending treatment and recovery based support services can have a profound impact on your life.
5. Exercising as a coping skill
Just as using/drinking became a way to manage feelings, exercise can be a great outlet for our feelings too. You can turn to exercise as a positive coping skill, using it as an outlet for those frustrations and mixed feelings that often come with early recovery.
6. Exercise can improve connectedness
Exercising with a friend can improve not only your physical and mental health but also improve your friendship. Breaking away from isolative behavior which is often the case with using, exercising with friends can be a great way to stay involved and out of your own head during early recovery.
William Wilder, BSW, CADC, ICGC-II – Footprints to Recovery – National Director of Outreach