Exercising


Benefits of exercise in recoveryBeing in recovery involves rethinking your entire approach to life, which means the early stages of recovery are the perfect time to begin a regular exercise regimen. Making physical activity a daily part of your life offers multiple benefits for the body, mind, and spirit.

1. Exercise Gives You a Natural High.

It may sound hard to believe if you’ve always been a bit of a couch potato, but exercise has been scientifically proven to give you a natural high. Physical activity increases serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins. These chemicals help boost your mood, much like the high from using drugs or alcohol.

It doesn’t matter how strenuous your exercise regimen is either. Even a brisk walk after dinner can be helpful, so feel free to start small and gradually increase your physical activity as your strength and stamina improve.

2. Exercise Relieves Stress.

Balancing work, family, friends, and recovery can certainly be stressful at times. Exercise is an excellent natural stress reliever because it’s essentially meditation in motion. If you’re focused on shooting hoops, playing tennis, or mastering new dance moves, you can’t worry about problems in other areas of your life.

After concentrating solely on your body’s movements for 30 minutes to an hour, you’ll have a new perspective on what’s bothering you. The break from your troubles will also keep you from making rash decisions you may regret in the future.

3. Exercise Lets You Manage Anger and Frustration.

When you’re in recovery, it can be challenging to find a way to deal with unpleasant emotions without turning to drugs or alcohol. Exercise can help you work out your frustration and anger in a productive way.

If you’re using exercise to manage anger and frustration, however, it may be best to avoid aggressive team sports such as hockey or football. The natural aggression in the game may exaggerate your emotional response. Try running or lifting weights instead.

4. Exercise Promotes More Restful Slumber.

In today’s fast-paced world, trouble sleeping is very common. Being in recovery can make insomnia worse when the body is struggling to adjust to life without drugs and alcohol. Getting regular exercise will help balance your circadian rhythms and burn off excess energy, both of which will help you sleep better. This will improve your mood as well as promote healing of the damage caused by past substance abuse.

For maximum benefits, aim to get at least 150 minutes of exercise per week. Ideally, it’s best to exercise five to six hours before you want to go to bed. This is the timeframe when the body’s temperature drops after exercising, which will make it easier to fall asleep. If it’s not possible to exercise at this time, a morning workout is the next best option. Exercising three hours or less before bed can actually overstimulate the heart, brain, and muscles—making it harder to go to sleep.

5. Exercise Helps You Deal with Co-Occurring Mental Health Disorders.

If you’ve been diagnosed with depression, anxiety, or another co-occurring mental disorder, the mood boosting benefits of a regular workout routine may help you feel better. Working out won’t necessarily be a substitute for your medication, but getting moving may help you feel more like yourself again.

Yoga’s mental health benefits are particularly well documented. By teaching participants to focus on their breathing and tune out distractions, yoga promotes focus and relaxation. If you’re hesitant to try yoga because you don’t think you’re flexible enough, look for a certified instructor who can help you modify poses to work with a more limited range of motion.

6. Exercise Fills Up Idle Time.

Boredom is a common trigger for cravings when you’re in the early stages of recovery, so anything that keeps you busy is going to be beneficial. For maximum benefit, consider taking an organized fitness class or scheduling time at the gym as a set part of your daily routine.

7. Exercise Expands Your Social Circle.

Making friends as an adult can be difficult, but you may find that it’s easier to expand your social circle if you’re exercising regularly. Joining a gym or participating in team sports is a great way to meet new people if you’re feeling lonely from no longer associating with friends who encourage unhealthy lifestyle choices.

If you’re worried about approaching someone new, keep it simple and ask for tips on improving your form or advice on healthy eating. Having a common interest to guide your conversation will help break the ice as you get to know each other.  

By Dana Hinders

To learn more about our programs, please call us at 888-352-3297.

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Using Yoga to Promote a Lasting RecoveryWhile yoga is far from a cure for drug and alcohol addiction, a regular yoga practice can help promote a lasting recovery. Yoga is especially popular with those searching for a holistic way to address addiction treatment because it enhances the mind, body, and spirit.

Yoga Is for Everyone

Even if you don’t consider yourself to be exceptionally flexible, it’s never too late to begin learning more about the benefits of yoga. In addition to yoga classes that designed to be part of addiction treatment, there are yoga programs targeted to diverse groups such as troubled at-risk teens, inmates in correctional facilities, military veterans, and nursing home residents.

Benefits of Yoga in Addiction Recovery

People turn to yoga for many different reasons, but some of the benefits it offers for those in recovery include:

  • Replacing artificial highs with a natural alternative. Yoga gives you a natural high by building your connection to your inner self. Instead of chasing external pleasures from drugs and alcohol, a regular yoga practice can teach you to be content with your internal wisdom and awareness.
  • Enhancing mental control. Yoga’s focus on meditation is essentially strength training for the mind. When you feel in control of your thoughts, your cravings will diminish.
  • Decreasing stress and anxiety. Many people turn to drugs and alcohol as a way to cope with the stress they feel in their personal and professional lives. Doing yoga to unwind at the end of a tough day helps you stay on track with your recovery.
  • Providing a way to deal with past trauma. If your addiction began as a way to cope with childhood trauma, yoga can help you develop the mental clarity needed to process your feelings and find a sense of inner peace.
  • Relieving chronic pain. If your addiction began as a way to cope with chronic pain, yoga is an all-natural way to keep your pain levels in check while enhancing your overall mobility.
  • Providing a sense of community. If you choose to practice yoga in a studio environment or to attend special workshops, you’ll be able to connect with a community of like-minded individuals who share your passion for wellness. Building social ties is scientifically proven to diminish the risk of relapse after addiction treatment.

Creating a Yoga Practice to Promote Addiction Recovery

It’s best to begin your study of yoga under the guidance of a qualified teacher who can adjust your form and suggest modifications to accommodate any physical limitations you might have. People who are overweight, have joint problems, or are recovering from recent injuries can still do yoga, but may need to modify poses to make them more accessible.

Yoga classes are typically 45 to 90 minutes in length and most studios offer free or discounted trial classes for newcomers. Do not get discouraged if you struggle with poses or find your mind wandering. Learning yoga requires practice and patience, just like mastering any other new skill.

Once you understand the basics, you can easily develop your own home yoga practice. All you need to create a home yoga studio is your yoga mat, comfortable clothes that allow you to move freely, and an open yet quiet place to practice. Some people like to play soothing music or diffuse calming essential oils during their practice, but this is not necessary.

The following beginner level poses are often incorporated into a home yoga practice to help promote a lasting recovery from drug and alcohol addiction.  

  • Balasana (Child’s Pose) releases tension and mental fatigue while promoting a feeling of safety.

  • Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend) stretches the lower back and hamstrings while promoting a feeling of calm.
  • Apanasana (Little Boat Hugging Knees) releases pressure in the lower back.

  • Baddha Konasana (Butterfly) is done with deep breathing exercises to open the hips and pelvis.

  • Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog) promotes grounding and stress relief as it releases tension from the entire body.

  • Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I) promotes feelings of mental strength and focus as it teaches to you stay present in the moment even when faced with discomfort.

  • Viparita Karani (Legs-up-the-Wall Pose) is a soothing pose often recommended as a way to promote a more restful sleep.

  • Savasana (Corpse Pose) is a relaxation pose traditionally done at the end of a practice to provide a sense of calm that replenishes both the mind and body.

By Dana Hinders

Staying active is an important element to good health. For people who are stuck in the cycle of drug or alcohol abuse, physical exercise is often one of the first parts of their routine that gets neglected.

Physical exercise is an important part of treatment for those who are in the early stages of recovery. In these early days, staying busy is important. The time that an addict used to fill with activities related to finding and using drugs or alcohol now needs to be filled with non-drug-related activities. Exercise is a good choice to help fill up this time, not only because it’s a common leisure activity, but also due to its effect on the brain.

Benefits of Personal Training on Addiction Recovery
Regular physical activity provides a number of benefits to those who are in recovery.

  • Regular Exercise Reduces Stress
    • As the physical dependency on drugs and alcohol gets broken, it’s important for addicts to repair their physical and psychological health. Part of addiction treatment involves learning new ways of dealing with emotions and tension. Exercise is a natural way to deal with stress and is healthier than using chemicals to relax or holding on to unnecessary stress.
  • Exercise Changes Brain Chemistry—for the Better
    • When someone exercises, their brain releases endorphins, which are the body’s “feel good” chemicals. The person experiences feelings of pleasure, which are a type of natural “high.” These are the same brain chemicals released when someone abuses substances. Substance abuse interferes with the normal release of brain chemicals to feel pleasure and happiness from anything other than using substances.
    • With time, regular exercise reintroduces natural levels of endorphins into the system. The addict’s body learns to feel better physically over time. They also relearn that they can experience pleasure from experiences that don’t involve using chemicals.
  • Exercise is a Way to Relieve Boredom
    • For a person in recovery, having large blocks of free time with nothing to do is something that should be avoided. Exercise is something that can be included in a daily routine to fill in part of the day. There are a number of activities that can be enjoyed with others, which makes exercising a way to meet new people who aren’t part of an addict’s former lifestyle. Taking an exercise class or playing a team sport is a way recovering addicts can get involved in sober activities and move away from their former circle of friends. This leads them to activities that don’t trigger the urge to drink or do drugs.
  • Regular Exercise Improves Mood
    • As a person in recovery begins to feel better physically, their outlook on life follows suit. People who exercise regularly have increased self-confidence and are less likely to feel anxious or depressed.
  • Participating in an Activity is Fun
    • Addicts who have spent years feeding their addiction may have lost the capacity to simply enjoy themselves by participating in some type of physical activity. Exercising doesn’t have to involve anything fancy or expensive. You can start by putting on a sturdy pair of shoes and going for a brisk walk. It won’t take long for someone in recovery to notice that once they feel better, they’ll start increasing their exercise as part of their new, sober lifestyle.

St. Joseph Institute offers a variety of exercise options, from hiking across our wooded campus, to exercising in the weight room, or swimming in our endless pool. If you or someone you love needs help with an addiction problem, please call us anytime at 888-352-3297.