Treatment for drug and alcohol addiction is most effective when a holistic approach is taken.
Individuals are affected by drug and alcohol abuse in a number of ways and simply treating addiction itself will not often lead to successful long-term sobriety. Substance abuse takes its toll on physical and mental health. When evaluating the needs of an individual entering treatment, it is important to assess their health and physical condition in order to provide therapies that are engaging and effective. Replacing time previously spent on acquiring and abusing drugs with constructive, healthy activities can make the recovery process easier. One of the most common extracurricular activities that improves clients’ health is exercise. Those who exercise regularly experience a plethora of benefits including maintaining a healthier weight, more energy and stamina, elevated mood, and enhanced protection from chronic diseases such as heart disease. Exercise often plays a key role in an individual’s recovery and can set the foundation for a healthier lifestyle following treatment.
A Natural High: Benefits of Exercise for Recovery from Addiction
Individuals use drugs and alcohol as a method of escaping the stresses of daily life and as a coping mechanism to deal with negative emotions and memories. Those who are recovering from drug and alcohol abuse must find new ways to combat these stressors. Exercise is the most popular activity among clients because it provides a multitude of benefits. In addition to filling up free time, exercise keeps clients engaged in an activity that complements their recovery, improves physical health, and boosts their mood. While an individual may have previously used drugs or alcohol to manage negative emotions and challenges, exercise presents a healthy alternative to drugs and alcohol that can be used to motivate them through recovery and can be continued after treatment.
Exercise releases endorphins in the body, which in turn boost mood; it can create euphoric feelings and reduce negative feelings. Additionally, exercise aids the immune system, which can reverse some of the damage caused by drugs and alcohol. It improves circulation and strength and helps the individual sweat out toxins while simultaneously boosting energy levels. Since many individuals who struggle with addiction may also struggle with body image and self-esteem, improved physical appearance and overall functioning as a result of exercising can boost confidence. As an individual sets goals and works towards accomplishing them, their achievements serve as motivators and allow them to feel a sense of accomplishment as they overcome challenges.
Aside from the physical benefits, exercise provides a number of benefits for mental and emotional health. Physical fitness is an excellent outlet for stress, anger, and other emotions that may influence substance abuse. Exercise can also help individuals develop emotional intelligence and common interests with others. Some exercises provide team-building opportunities that promote the development of leadership and communication skills.
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Types of Exercise
Everyone’s needs in recovery are unique and not everyone will benefit from the same physical fitness routines. There are a number of activities an individual can engage in that are both physically and mentally challenging. Exploring these activities provides the opportunity for self-exploration and discovery of interests. This may require stepping outside of one’s comfort zone in order to find activities that are enjoyable, engaging, and beneficial.
If an individual prefers to exercise alone, there are a number of individualized sports and activities to choose from. A gym membership is one of the most common ways an individual can engage in solitary exercise. Many gyms offer a wide variety of amenities including free weights, indoor pools, racquetball, cardio equipment, and strength equipment. Individuals may benefit from working with a trainer to help them develop customized workout routines, set goals and work towards achieving them. There are a number of individual sports a person can engage in as well including golf, indoor rock climbing, skiing, snowboarding, and long distance running.
If an individual prefers a more social experience, there are a number of group exercises that can help an individual improve both physical and mental health. Group exercises may encourage teamwork and social interactions that can boost mood, improve communication, and lead to the development of healthy relationships with others. Some of these activities include basketball, soccer, football, hockey, softball, yoga, and dance.
To really step outside of one’s comfort zone, one may want to engage in activities that are often used as experiential therapies in treatment. These activities are physical and mentally challenging, allowing individuals to reap therapeutic benefits in nontraditional environments. Activities such as surfing, sky diving, mountain biking, and horseback riding can lead to the discovery of new passions and interests while simultaneously providing an opportunity for exercise and therapy. Clients can work together to overcome a challenge and can motivate and encourage one another. Experiential therapies invite clients to push their own limits and achieve even more.
Importance of Exercise for Young Adults
Regardless of its intensity, regular exercise has been proven to significantly reduce the likelihood of relapse in recovering young adults. Establishing a routine helps with time management, energy, and sobriety. Exercise can provide structure that encourages individuals to maintain healthy practices and committing to a regular workout can occupy much of an individual’s newfound free time.
Exercise is especially critical for young adults because today’s society is saturated with media and technology. Technology can impact the amount of sleep and physical activity an individual gets, as well as increase the likelihood of mental health disorders. Studies show that today’s generation of young adults are part of an invisible group at risk for the development of depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and other mental health disorders. While technology has not always been an influence on mental health disorders, a growing number of individuals who are deeply involved with it has led to the discovery of a new link. This is especially important because approximately six out of ten individuals who struggle with addiction are also affected by a mental health disorder.
Physical fitness provides an excellent avenue to address many of the factors that influence substance abuse, and it can be practiced in life after treatment. Exercise helps to build the foundation of a healthy lifestyle, improving quality of life while contributing successful long-term sobriety.