Some people love it. Some people hate it. Everybody needs it.
For a person in recovery, a regular exercise program can be especially important. Exercise can, of course, improve your physical health. It can also improve your mental health. And it can help prevent relapse. All of those positives outweigh any and all negatives—like having to get up off the couch—right?
Need More Convincing? Here are the Benefits
You might be on board with the general idea that exercise is beneficial, but maybe you need some more detail to get motivated. We’re happy to help. Regular exercise has been shown to:
- Improve energy levels while also promoting more restful sleep
- Treat symptoms of depression while also boosting your mood and promoting positive thinking
- Reduce chronic pain, which in turn can reduce reliance on painkillers
- Pump up your immune system, which may have been undermined by substance abuse
- Reduce both cravings and boredom, thereby reducing the risk of relapse
On Board? Great! Here are Your Goals
A good guideline for physical activity is to shoot for at least 30 minutes of exercise each day. You can knock that out all in one burst or you can divide it up over the day—a choice that may be influenced by your schedule as well as your current level of fitness.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) offers further guidelines. Healthy adults, according to HHS, should try to get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity (think exercises that get your heart pumping) into their schedule each week. Alternatively, you could shoot for 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity each week—or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity. Moderate activity means you can speak (but not sing) comfortably while engaged in the exercise. Vigorous activity means you can’t sustain a conversation because you need to breathe every few words.
For strength training, HHS suggests incorporating all of your major muscle groups into your workout at least twice each week. A single set of each exercise is recommended using resistance or weights heavy enough to tire you after 12 to 15 repetitions.
Feeling Overwhelmed? Here are Some Ideas to Get You Started
Even when you understand the benefits and the basic goals, starting an exercise program can be intimidating—especially if your fitness level is currently low or you haven’t exercised in a long time. Remember: you are not exercising to impress anyone or to become an athlete. You are pursuing better physical and mental health while you avoid relapsing. Even the smallest of moves toward a more active lifestyle can have benefits.
Exercise doesn’t have to be drudgery. Don’t like to jog? No problem. Don’t jog. It’s as simple as that. Figure out what you do enjoy (Swimming? Dancing? Hiking? Ultimate Frisbee?) and do that. If the exercise is something you enjoy, it will be far easier to stay motivated.
Not sure what you’d enjoy? Fair enough. Try a few things out. Maybe your local fitness center has some classes you could try at a reduced cost until you find the one for you. Maybe a friend is part of an adult sports league and can invite you to play softball or kickball or touch football or whatever it may be. Maybe what you really need is the low impact, stress-relieving power of yoga. The experimentation can be low pressure and fun if you stay positive. Eventually, you will find the perfect activity for you.
Tempted to Stop? Here are Some Tips for Sticking With It
No matter how motivated you are when you start exercising, it is all too easy to stop. You miss a day. And then you miss a couple of days. And then you can’t remember when your last workout was. It can be discouraging—and make it much harder to get started again.
To avoid that downward cycle, you need a plan for staying with your exercise program. Some things that might help include:
- Working out with a friend of family member so that you can keep each other accountable
- Scheduling your exercise time just like you schedule other can’t-miss activities, like therapy appointments or 12-Step meetings
- Keeping track of your progress so that you have an ongoing sense of how your health is improving as you can run a little longer or lift a little more over time
- Focusing on how you feel rather than how you look
- Rewarding yourself with anything from new workout gear to an indulgent snack so that you always feel as though you are working toward something tangible
- Remembering that your journey is yours alone and that you should not compare yourself to anyone else
Need Recovery Help? Exercise Your Option to Give us a Call
The first step in your recovery journey is rehabilitation and treatment at a facility like Wooded Glen Recovery Center. We’re here to get you on a better path that leaves drugs and alcohol behind and points you toward lasting sobriety. With expertise and compassion, we will make sure you are ready for recovery—and provide you with information and resources (about exercise and many other topics) that will help you reshape your life.