Are you getting enough exercise? 

That is sort of a loaded question, isn’t it? “Enough” is a mushy word. Enough for what? 

Your answer may be enough to maintain a healthy weight to improve your mental health or to let you feel okay about eating dessert. Your answer might be enough to rehab an injury to prepare for a marathon or to allow you to keep up with your kids or grandkids. 

All of those are good reasons to exercise—and what constitutes “enough” might vary from one reason to another.

We’d like to propose another reason you might be exercising: to support your recovery from a substance use disorder. 

How much exercise is enough to do that? Fair question.

Our answer: any amount that seems to be firming up the foundations of your sobriety. 

You Pick the Intensity

Often, when we think of exercise, the mind serves up images of something strenuous. Someone running along the road or on a treadmill, for example. Or someone bench pressing or free lifting an enormous amount of weight. Or someone who is always off to spin class or Pilates or aerobics or what have you.

Maybe that sort of intensity appeals to you, and if it does, that’s great (though we would encourage you to get some guidance from a doctor and/or a trainer before jumping into high-intensity exercise from scratch). But there is a pretty good chance that it doesn’t appeal to you at all. 

That is entirely okay. You can still find the form of exercise that is right for you and that supports your ongoing recovery. There are so many options.

For example, if you have the mobility, you could get started by simply adding a 10-minute walk to your daily routine. If you walk outside, you can get the benefit of sunlight, enjoy the beauty of the natural world (even in many urban settings), and, yes, get some meaningful exercise. All of these things support your physical and mental health, which, in turn, support your sobriety.

Pick A Type Of Exercise That Supports Your Sobriety

You might consider giving yoga a try. Yoga is, of course, a kind of exercise—but it also serves as a kind of mindfulness practice in motion. If mindfulness practice is part of your recovery routine, you may find that yoga fits neatly into your approach. You can find a local yoga class and get the benefits of sharing time with folks who are also actively working toward better health. Or you can find online resources that will allow you to practice yoga at home. You might even find that you enjoy both of those options.

Or you might take up an activity that is not traditionally thought of as exercise at all. For example, the physical aspects of taking care of a garden add up to real exercise—and you are also gathering up the benefits of being outdoors that we mentioned above.  

Again, we are certainly not discouraging you from taking up running or weightlifting or signing up for vigorous exercise classes of one kind or another. Instead, we are suggesting that those activities are not the only kinds of exercise that can be beneficial to a person in recovery.

Two Words of Warning: Don’t Let Exercise Become A Substitute Addiction 

In nearly every circumstance (assuming that you are working out at a level appropriate for your current level of fitness), exercise provides benefits. But there is at least one situation in which it can lead to problems.

A person in recovery from a substance use disorder can find themselves struggling with what is known as a substitute addiction. Maybe they start working an unreasonable amount of hours. Maybe they find themselves gambling too much with money they don’t have. Maybe they eat in an almost compulsive manner. Or maybe they exercise too much.

If you find yourself exercising to the point of exhaustion—or beyond—over and over, it is time to have a frank conversation with your doctor, therapist, sponsor, or recovery mentor. A substitute addiction is problematic in and of itself—and it can also serve as a gateway to relapse. As a result, it is essential that you address a substitute addiction as soon as you suspect you might be developing an issue.

Exercise Your Option to Get Help for a Substance Use Disorder

At Wooded Glen Recovery Center in Indiana, we can help you reclaim your sobriety. We offer a robust, personalized approach to treatment that is grounded in empathy and expertise, experience and evidence, and a commitment to a continuum of care. If you are ready to get sober—and to acquire strategies and resources that will help you stay sober—we are ready to get started.