Exercise in recovery can ease withdrawal, deter addictive habits and create long-term wellness.

Earlier this week, we told you a little about why exercise can help your wellness during recovery. To sum up: it helps format your time, release endorphins and secure your recovery in the short- and long-term. But what more should you know about the good it does for you?

The medical benefits of exercise are sometimes spectacular, and so we wanted to really break down the physiology behind why exercise strengthens both you and your recovery.

Exercise can help you through withdrawal.

Withdrawal isn’t exactly a pleasant process. Symptoms can include depression, lethargy, digestive problems, irritability or anger, headaches, dry mouth, muscle aches … the list goes on and doesn’t get any better.

Exercise can help lessen those symptoms. Increasing your heart rate increases your blood flow, which can help oxygenate stiff, cramped muscles. Movement also naturally releases endorphins, which decreases anxiety and acts as a painkiller. Exercise also stimulates the flow of serotonin (the hormone responsible for general happiness and wellbeing) in your brain. It’s not a cure-all for withdrawal, but, coupled with other recovery strategies, it can help reduce or alleviate many of the physical and emotional symptoms.

 Exercise helps deter addictive behaviors.

When you’re engaged in exercise, you don’t have that time to use or drink, or to practice behaviors that might lead you to use or drink. In fact, one 2011 study found that exercise may even help prevent addiction in the first place.

Exercise also helps form positive social bonds, which both help keep you accountable and provide a support network. Harvard Health blogger Dr. Claire Twark wrote about her experience with exercise groups geared towards recovery support, calling the instructors’ dedication she saw in the instructors “inspiring.”

Support groups and nonprofits designed around fitness in recovery have begun appearing around the country as more people realize the positive role exercise plays in addiction recovery. Dr. Twark suggested looking into groups such as The Phoenix, a nonprofit that offers sober active community support to those in recovery.

Exercise sets you up for a longer, healthier life.

Researchers are still discovering the long-term benefits of exercise, but there is already a wealth of data showing how exercise helps your body recover and prevents future medical problems. Some of the known benefits include:

  • Decreased blood pressure. High blood pressure means your heart and lungs are working overtime in order to pump blood to the rest of your body, putting you at a higher risk for stroke, heart attack, kidney disease, and even dementia.
  • Improved libido. Researchers have found correlations between short-term intensive exercises and increased libido in both men and women. While the long-term effects of exercise and sex drive are a little murkier, some laboratory studies have shown that exercises like swimming, walking, yoga, and strength training all help provide a short-term boost to your libido.
  • Decreased chances of cancer. Science shows that exercise decreases the likelihood of a few different cancers, including colon cancer, breast cancer, and endometrial cancer.
  • Weight loss and fewer complications caused by obesity. Exercise stabilizes things like insulin levels (which can cause Type 2 diabetes if they get out of control), inflammation and immune system function, all of which are put under strain when you’re overweight.

Where do I start?

See about your own personal exercise. But if you’re not sure where to start, visit In The Rooms to check out our yoga-based recovery meetings, or take a look at some of our other content to learn about how exercise and wellness can assist your recovery. Join us today and see how we can serve your recovery journey.

Photo by Philip Ackermann from Pexels

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