Get Physical in Recovery: How Sports, Nature, and Exercise Can Help with Alcohol and Drug Recovery

man in black shorts and shirt running on beach - physical

By Sandy Baker

How much time do you spend outdoors, soaking in the sun and enjoying the natural world around you? According to some studies, men and women with substance use disorders may benefit from getting physical during their recovery. Doing so can be good for the mind and body and it can also help you feel good about yourself and your journey ahead. What’s the connection?

The Benefits of Exercise in Recovery

Any type of physical activity, whether a sport or an exercise regimen, can help you during recovery. In the Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the recommendation is to include exercise in a drug treatment program. When used alongside cognitive therapy, exercise can help in a variety of ways: reducing cravings, preventing weight gain, and reducing negative feelings.

To get these benefits, it’s important to incorporate exercise into your therapy and treatment programs. When you work with your counseling team, talk about how you can incorporate holistic exercise regimens into your treatment plan.

Why Does Exercise Help in Drug and Alcohol Recovery?

Each person’s experience may be a bit different. Your overall health and mental well-being play a role in determining just how effective your exercise regimen can be. However, there are several key ways people benefit from getting just 30 minutes a day of a good workout.

It Can Drop Stress Levels
A Harvard Medical School publication states that exercise can help to reduce stress levels. Specifically, aerobic exercise is best for this. During aerobic exercise, the brain’s neurochemical balance improves due to the reduction of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline and the boost of endorphins, the ‘feel-good’ hormones. As a result, you feel good, you’re happy, and you’re gaining strength and endurance.

It Can Balance Hormones Long-Term
The good hormones that exercise produces take immediate effect and continue to work for hours after. Over time, this regular experience of feeling good can help to reprogram your mind. While you may feel like you hate exercise at first, if you push through the first few weeks, your attitude will likely change–you’ll want to exercise and look forward to how it makes you feel. That’s because of the chemical changes exercise creates in the brain. In this way, exercise can also help with co-occurring mood disorders like anxiety and depression.

It Gives You a Better Outlook
Exercise also helps you to see the future in a better light. While exercise cannot cure addiction, it can encourage you to keep going with your treatment. It helps you to build self-confidence as your body’s physical health improves. As you see your body get stronger and leaner, you begin to gain some optimism for your future; you start to trust that you will be strong enough to try new things and to endure through the tough times.

What Type of Exercise Is Best for Addiction Recovery?

Absolutely any type of exercise that you enjoy doing is going to be worthwhile to you. You do not have to buy equipment or spend a lot of time at the gym. Here are a few recommendations.

  • Yoga and Pilates are two less stressful methods of exercise that can be very positive for those in early recovery.
  • Swimming is beneficial because it doesn’t put a lot of physical stress on your body.
  • Walking and running can work for many who want a simple option. Even walking around a track at the gym can help.
  • Sports are great for many people. If you love the competition and there’s a sport you like to play, this is a good way to fuel your body and mind during recovery.
  • Bike riding, whether indoor or outdoor, can be helpful. When possible, try to ride outside to get the benefit of fresh air and sunshine.

Getting active for 30 minutes a day can be good for you in many ways. Before you get started, be sure to speak to your doctor and therapist about your plans. They can help you determine the healthiest exercise plan for your current physical and mental condition.

The Benefits of Being in Nature During Exercise

Perhaps you love to be outside. You like to spend time in the sun, working in the garden, or just running around at a park with the kids. These are all good for you. They get you moving, and that’s what’s important. While you can exercise inside, there are several key reasons to get outside.
The health benefits of being in nature are numerous. They include:

  • Improving your immune system
  • Improving your mood
  • Boosting your ability to focus
  • Improving your energy level and your ability to sleep
  • Reducing your stress

It’s easy to get outside. You can walk in your neighborhood if you like. Or, head to a local park. If there’s a safe forest to walk through, do so, looking upwards into the trees. Breathe in deeply to feel how powerful it can be.

Work with Your Counselor to Create a Plan

If you’re looking for a way to get treatment for addiction and improve your quality of life, get started today. The Ranch at Dove Tree in Lubbock, TX, offers a continuum of drug and alcohol treatment services catered to your unique needs. Contact us today to learn more about how we can integrate holistic care into your treatment plan.

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To learn more about our programs at Ranch at Dove Tree, Lubbock drug and alcohol treatment, please contact us today at 800.218.6727.