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Include Physical Fitness in Your Recovery Program to Ensure Success


By Constance Ray



Getting fit can be a boost to your recovery program. Working out provides big benefits to your mental and physical well-being, and when you're overcoming an addiction, you want every advantage you can gain. Here are some tips for making exercise part of your recovery program.


The damage from addiction. As addiction became part of your life, it wreaked havoc on your brain. As explained by, addiction to a substance actually rewires your brain, creating substantial changes at the structural, chemical, and molecular level. Through treatment, your brain begins to heal. Many of the physical changes caused by addiction are reversed, and you can learn healthy coping skills that encourage better choices and promote the healing process. Some experts explain that the brain's normal impulse control, decision-making, pleasure and reward center, learning and memory functions, and stress management center are all affected and require new direction. For example, addicts need to relearn how to experience pleasure from traditional, healthy experiences, such as eating a delicious meal and spending time with friends. Through positive outlets such as exercise, you can regain what was lost and retrain your brain toward a healthy lifestyle.


Reversing the damage. Modifying your lifestyle is a major key to recovery, and getting fit can become a cornerstone in your program. Through exercise, you can actually begin reversing much of the damage from alcohol or substance abuse. What's more, an exercise program can help you stay on track. Working out releases feel-good chemicals in your brain called endorphins, which can enhance your sense of well-being and give you a natural "high" your body and brain may be missing. Exercise can reduce your risk for anxiety and depression, and as some research shows, it redirects your mind toward more positive thoughts and emotions, helping you feel more confident, focused, and relaxed. Getting fit can make you feel better about how you look, enhance your social life, and engage a positive coping venue since you can expend excess energy or negative emotions in a healthy manner.


Your personal plan. Your exercise program will be unique, but you should include both strength training and cardio in your routine. Traditional workouts are a rewarding and effective choice, but as Plexus notes, if you're new to working out, it's best to start slow. Opt for a walking program, since it's inexpensive and easy to squeeze into your day. You can snag walks 10 minutes at a time, going slow and easy initially. As you become healthier, you can expand into more vigorous and lengthier sessions and look for ways to diversify your workouts. Include a Zumba class, participate in kickboxing, throw a ball around the yard with your kids. Don't overthink it; anything that gets your blood pumping for at least 10 minutes counts! For strength training, you can lift weights, do floor exercises like sit-ups and push-ups, or do something adventurous like rock climbing.


Sticking with it. Since it plays a supportive role in your recovery, it's vital to find ways to maintain your workout program. The American Heart Association offers some terrific suggestions for helping you stick with your new fitness plan. Try working out at the same time each day so it's part of your routine, whether it's on your lunch break, after work, or first thing in the morning. Find ways to add variety by taking classes, participating with friends, or using something to take your mind off what you're doing, like watching television or listening to music. Switch things up by taking your dog for a hike, riding your bike, or going dancing.  Find ways to keep your regimen fun and interesting, and don't overdo it. Setting the bar too high can lead to exhaustion, injury, and burnout. Check in with your health care professional or hire a personal trainer if you struggle with your program.


Fit for your recovery. Participating in an exercise program can be an important boost in your recovery. Working out can help reverse the damage from addiction and give you healthy coping tools. Stay on track by including physical fitness in your new lifestyle.


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Constance Ray co-created RecoveryWell to provide a safe place for people to share their addiction stories so that others can learn from them and benefit in their own lives.

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