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How Can Going to the Gym Help My Recovery from Addiction?

Many treatment facilities and sober living homes have been emphasizing the importance of physical health in sobriety. Some, like Camelback Recovery, even offer gym memberships to those attending their programs. What does exercise and going to the gym have to do with recovery from addictions? If addiction is rooted in the brain, how can physical activities help? Why are so many programs encouraging fitness in treatment? 

Addiction can be treated with holistic approaches, which involve both our physical and mental health. Holistic approaches are treatment methods and health habits that include strengthening the mind-body connection. We can help our minds recover by focusing on our physical health as well. During addiction, we may have allowed our physical health needs to fall by the wayside. We may have neglected healthy eating and exercise habits. Our physical health can impact how we feel and can play an essential role in our emotional regulation. 

Releasing “Feel Good” Chemicals

Exercise can help us manage anxiety and depression by burning off excess energy and releasing “feel good” chemicals in our brains. These chemicals are released in our minds when we do any physically exerting task. The “feel good” chemicals help us get through challenging physical exercise by rewarding us with good feelings in our minds. We may have used alcohol or other substances to release these chemicals artificially. However, alcohol, substances, or other addictions only provide temporary relief at a substantial cost to our overall physical health. The root cause of addiction may be an underlying issue with anxiety or depression (or both). By exercising or going to the gym during recovery, we can help to address this underlying issue by introducing a healthy habit into our lives.

Building Self-Esteem and Confidence

Exercising can provide us with challenges that we can use to boost our self-esteem and confidence. We can set goals in the gym and see the results as we watch our bodies change and grow stronger. When we accomplish goals or other physical achievements, we can notice a change to our mindset as we begin to believe in ourselves. We may be surprised at what we can accomplish in the gym! This confidence can carry over into other areas of our lives. If we can regularly tackle a challenge in the gym, we may feel more confident dealing with other obstacles on our path to recovery. 

Tips for Success in Exercise and Gyms

When we go to the gym, we may jump into the activity quickly and burn out within a few weeks. This can happen to a lot of people both in and out of recovery treatment. Gym memberships and attendance tend to spike following the New Year’s holiday, as people make vague health resolutions. As weeks go on, attendance drops as people fail to commit to their resolutions and new-found goals. Often, these people are unprepared for the commitment of building a weekly routine for their exercise goals. They also may not be prepared for the length of time required to form new habits and give up before giving themselves an appropriate amount of time to change. Here are some tips that we can use to be more successful in maintaining our exercise and gym routines:

  • Create a playlist of songs we enjoy. Music can help us focus on our exercise routines by cutting out other background noises that can be distracting. Music can also boost our mood or make us feel good or powerful! We might even find that we enjoy going to the gym as a time to listen to our favorite songs.
  • Pick the right time. Many people think that we have to work out in the mornings to get the best results. The truth is that the best time to exercise is whenever we are exercising! Finding a time that will work best for ourselves will help us stick to our new habits. For some people, this is before or after work. Others may have extended lunch breaks and can exercise at this time.
  • Go with a partner. Starting a new workout routine can be challenging to do alone. We might know someone else interested in our new goal. Our gym partner can help to support us and keep us motivated. They can also help to hold us accountable.
  • Set a goal. Our goals to exercise can be simple. We may want to keep a number in mind to help us stick to the plan. Our goal can be something like, “I will run on the treadmill for 20 minutes, three times per week.” Another goal may be, “I will complete a weight lifting routine four times per week.” (Bonus tip: when starting with exercise, set a goal around building the routine and not losing a specific amount of body weight, running a certain speed or benching pressing a set amount of weight.) As we build the habit of going to the gym or routine exercise, we can then start to work towards those other goals. Keep it simple at first!)

 

Physical health and wellness can go a long way in our recovery. We can open the door to forming new healthy habits, building new friendships, and building our self-confidence by exercising regularly. Many recovery treatment facilities and sober living homes emphasize the importance of maintaining our physical health needs as we form healthy habits during recovery. Addiction can take a tremendous toll on our physical selves. We may have gained weight or lost strength due to our bad habits. We may get winded easily and struggle to get through the day. By building up our physical selves, we can be strong to face the daily challenges of recovery! Camelback Recovery understands the critical role that healthy eating and exercise can play in addiction treatment. Call us at (602) 466-9880 to discuss how our sober living programs can help you with your whole-health needs!