Exercise in sobriety can be one of the greatest ways to stay sober while in early recovery. When you’re getting sober, isn’t one of the most difficult parts figuring out how to fill all of your newfound free time? If you are an addict or an alcoholic, using substances consumed the large majority of your thoughts and energy, of your entire life before getting sober. You had to find the money to get your drugs or alcohol, pick them up, use them, try to enjoy the high, and then start all over again once you came down.
It was a time-consuming cycle that felt as though it would never end, that you would be stuck in the same pattern forever. Once you’ve broken out of it, though, you’ll find that there is a lot more time in the day than you originally realized. Using exercise in sobriety can be a fantastic way to work towards your recovery.
When you are in drug and alcohol treatment, you may find that using exercise in sobriety can help you to develop healthy patterns of behavior that will carry over once you are back in your living environment. Using your time in treatment to establish healthy habits can set you up for an easier time in recovery during the long run.
Exercise is Suggested to Stay Healthy
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average adult needs 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise each week. Adding in muscle strength training two days a week is also suggested. Though it may seem like a lot when added up, this equates to just 30 minutes of exercise per day, 5 days per week. It sounds a lot easier to achieve when broken down, right?
Using exercise in sobriety to fill some of your time in early recovery can benefit not only your sobriety but your health. Find some type of exercise you enjoy: running, walking your dog, weight lifting, joining a club soccer team, rock climbing. There is an exercise method for everyone! As long as you get your body moving multiple times a week, the benefits include a healthier heart and decreased levels of depression.
Boosting Your Dopamine Levels with Exercise in Sobriety
You may have heard of something called a “runner’s high”, the enjoyable, euphoric feeling produced during high-intensity exercise such as long distance running or weightlifting . Exercise is linked with an increase of dopamine levels in the brain, which is responsible for helping you feel happier and more energized.
Boosted dopamine levels contribute to a decrease in depression and anxiety. With the prevalence of co-occurring disorders in many addicts and alcoholics, depression and anxiety tend to be common in many people in recovery. If you are experiencing these feelings, getting outside and taking a walk can help to get your heart rate up and your depression and anxiety down.
Exercise in Sobriety: Developing Discipline
Most addicts and alcoholics develop a severe disregard for discipline while they are drinking and using. The rules no longer applied to you as you would do anything to get your next drink or drug. Once you have returned to society, though, you find that every other person adheres to some sort of discipline in their everyday lives.
Using exercise in sobriety can help you develop discipline that you lost while you were in active addiction and alcoholism. Making a plan to exercise 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week and sticking to it can create and encourage consistency in your life. Not only will this help your health but it will carry over into your work or school activities to help you become a better employee and student.
Replacing Substance Abuse with a Healthy Addiction Using Exercise in Sobriety
As mentioned earlier, exercise affects the brain’s production of dopamine. Using drugs and drinking alcohol also impacts the dopamine receptors in your brain, so it can be helpful to replace drinking with exercise in sobriety. The impact of exercise on dopamine production can help to replicate the feelings you had while active in your substance abuse but in a healthier way.
There is a reason many addicts and alcoholics in recovery replace drugs and alcohol with exercise. Implementing healthy habits in your life will help you push out your harmful old coping skills and replace them with helpful ones.
If you are participating in an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP), you will not only have the time outside of treatment to exercise in sobriety, but you may also be able to find someone in your group who would like to exercise with you. Exercise can be more enjoyable with a friend to encourage you!
Implementing exercise in sobriety will help you to stay positive, fill your time, and replace your addiction with a healthy alternative. There are many online resources to help you find a type of exercise that you will enjoy, as well as online communities for support and accountability. Just as you never have to be alone in recovery, you don’t have to be alone in your exercise, either!