The Pros and Cons of Exercise in Recovery

Some turn to exercise as a means release tension. And this can be particularly true for those who are in recovery from addiction. Exercise can help boost one’s mood, take the mind off obsessive thoughts, heal the body, and provide you with higher doses of dopamine and serotonin. In fact, recent research indicates that exercise is not only a means to treat depression but it can also prevent it. Of course, not every addict is depressed. But this research indicates how valuable exercise can be for one’s emotional and psychological health.

Physical activity can release endorphins, boost positive feelings, improve the health of the brain, and facilitate change that lasts – such as sobriety. However, there are some in the addiction and recovery field that recognize a danger of exercise among recovering addicts. Certainly for most people in recovery, exercise is a win-win. It’s a way to stay not only physically fit, but emotionally and even spiritually fit.

Yet, for some, exercise can become another addiction. According to an article in The Fix, Madhukar H. Trivedi, M.D. is researching both the pros and cons of exercise for those in recovery. The benefits to exercise are obvious, such as those listed above. Furthermore, exercise can improve mood, weight, sleep, and one’s overall quality of life. Trivedi believes that exercise can also trigger the nervous system to heal itself and improve memory.

However, his research has also shown that exercise releases neurotransmitters in the brain, such as dopamine, noradrenaline, and serotonin, which are the same chemicals that are triggered with most drugs. It’s quite possible that some men and women who are recovering from drugs and/or alcohol may turn to forms of exercise for emotional stability but then find a possible replacement for their addiction. This may be particularly true for those who exercise in extreme ways and for extreme periods of time.

Furthermore, another study found that too much exercise can also be harmful. In this study, all participants were required to answer questions regarding their demographics, height, weight, socioeconomic status, sports injuries, and well-being. The quality of their well-being was determined by using the World Health Organization’s (WHO) index, whose scores fall between 0 and 25, with scores below 13 indicating a poor well-being.

The researchers found that participants who had low as well as very high physical activity were more than twice as likely to have poor well-being. At the same time, the results of the study indicated that those who exercised approximately 14 hours per week has the highest level of well-being. Of course, as already mentioned, exercise is a powerful form self-care because it has so many physical, emotional, and psychological benefits for the mind and body. However, too much exercise, as this study points out can be harmful.

If you’re in recovery and you find yourself exercising at extreme levels, perhaps it’s become another addiction. Perhaps the exercise is no longer helping you but harming you in certain ways. If this is the case, talk to your sponsor, others who are using exercise as a tool for sobriety, and perhaps a training coach, if you have one.

If you need additional assistance with staying sober or emotionally stable, contact a mental health provider for your safety.


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Physical & Psychological Benefits of Exercise in Sober Living

Physical & Psychological Benefits of Exercise in Sober Living | Transcend Recovery Community

In many ways, recovery from addiction means learning how to take care of yourself. Many addicts find that they don’t know how to do something as simple as feed themselves or tend to their health or even taking care of their hygiene by showering regularly. Part of recovery for many who are new to sober living is the essential lesson of taking good care of oneself.

Of course, exercise is a powerful form self-care because it has so many physical, emotional, and psychological benefits for the mind and body. In fact, because exercise has so many benefits, researchers are exploring how exercise can specifically facilitate the recovery process for those who are in sober living programs.

For example, two studies in 2010 confirmed that exercise could indeed improve the likelihood of sober living. One study, published in Biological Psychiatry found that those who exercised had less cravings for using their drug of choice and suffered less damage to the brain’s prefrontal cortex compared to those who did not exercise. And the second study, published in the Scandinavian Journal of Public Health revealed that those who exercised had an improved quality of life. Participants of the study reported having more energy, better breathing, and felt better about their life in general.

There’s no question that recovery from addiction requires healing both the mind and body. An addiction is an illness that is both physical and psychological. It’s a disorder that is damaging to the body because of damaging thoughts in the mind. Healing both aspects of oneself is what exercise can do. In fact, exercise has the following benefits:

Physical Benefits of Exercise

  • Weight loss and management
  • Improves circulation
  • Removes toxins from the body through sweating
  • Strengthens the heart
  • Improved muscle strength
  • Boosts energy
  • More restful sleep
  • Improved circulation

Psychological Benefits of Exercise

  • Improved self-image
  • Relieves stress
  • Improved mood
  • Reduces anxiety and depression
  • Provides a healthy hobby
  • Sharpens mental skills
  • Positive feelings surrounding taking care of oneself

Many sober living facilities and residential drug treatment centers are incorporating exercise into their programs. Transcend Recovery Community has partnered with Iron Fitness to provide their residents with a gym membership. A resident’s ability to attend the gym at his or her discretion makes it exercise easily accessible and the fact that exercise is encouraged by the Transcend community further supports getting fit as a pivotal part of the sober living program.

Transcend provides immense support to their residents, and the staff at Iron Fitness loves working with Transcend residents. In fact, staff members at Iron Fitness are eager to work one on one with residents to facilitate having their unique fitness needs met. The personal trainers can help residents set manageable goals to achieve weight loss, create a healthy lifestyle, and stay sober.

Sober living is not easy to cultivate if it’s a completely new way of life. It’s not only the end of using substances, but it’s also the beginning of seeing and living life in a new way. Part of this is taking good care of oneself through exercise, healthy eating, and healthy thinking. Recovery and long-term sober living are within reach when exercise is a regular part of daily living.

Sober Living: 15 Holistic Approaches to Recovery (Part Two)

Sober Living: 15 Holistic Approaches to Recovery (Part Two) | Transcend Recovery Community

The first article of this series, Sober Living: 15 Holistic Approaches to Recovery (Part One), began a list of holistic approaches that are being used more and more in sober living homes and recovery treatment centers around the world. We started off with acupuncture, art therapy, and deep breathing. Below will continue with such methods as meditation, journaling, and hypnosis.

Deep Breathing can be an essential tool, particularly right in those intense moments, and perhaps in a moment of craving. One of the most effective forms of deep breathing is square breathing. Someone using this method breathes in for the count of four, holds the breath for a count of four, breathes out for a count of four, and holds the breath for a count of four, and continuing that cycle until he or she feels relaxed.

Exercise can be an essential ingredient on the path to sober living. Physical activity can release endorphins, which alone help to boost positive feelings. Exercise can also help with the health of the brain, including making new neural connections, which alone can facilitate enduring change. Furthermore, to experience these benefits from exercise, you don’t have to run three miles a day; simply taking a walk regularly can boost mental health

Guided Imagery – This is a treatment technique that uses imagination and focus to direct attention on the nervous system, particularly the part of the body that might hold the answer to one’s issue. It can be used on those who have both psychological and physical illnesses, such as addiction.

Herbal Therapy is a form of treatment that uses herbs, which re natural botanical substances that affect the body. Many herbs have long been used in detoxification. For instance, the herb Kadzu has the potential for moderating alcohol abuse. Milk thistle can improve liver function, and Kava and Valerian can be used to treat insomnia, which often accompanies withdrawal.

Homeopathy is a non-toxic use of highly diluted remedies that are used to treat illnesses. They are considered to stimulate a person’s bodily system in a way that allows them to deal with stress and illness more efficiently. They can be useful during an individual’s road to sober living and during their withdrawal periods.

Hypnosis is a state of deep attention, which is induced by a therapist. The mind is highly receptive to suggestion and therefore can be used to help a person reach their goal for living sober.

Ideal Model Imagery – In this treatment modality, the clinician asks a depressed teen or adult to imagine what it would be like in an ideal situation. For example, an intervention might be, “Imagine what your life would be like if you were not depressed?” or “Imagine what circumstances and situations you would find yourself in if you were not depressed.”

Journaling can be a healing practice for those striving for sober living. By sitting in a designated place each week or each day write down your experiences, writing can become a healing practice. Really, it’s not the writing that is healing; instead, it is the relationship that you build with yourself as a result of having a writing practice. As you, another part of you is listening and offering compassion and a hug

Meditation is a very calming practice that can also produce healing experiences. Although meditation might be difficult at first, the challenge at the beginning is worth the rewards. By sharpening one’s focus, the heart can open and healing can take place.

Pet Therapy is a new and growing field called Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT). It is a goal-directed intervention therapy that involves the use of an animal. A trained dog, for instance, is incorporated into the treatment plan as an essential part of an individual’s sober living recovery.

Perhaps as these forms of holistic approaches become more and more popular, they will be a part of a regular sober living program. For now, anyone interested in holistic recovery might have to look for them – but they’re out there!