By Jason Lewis
Eliminating consumption of drugs and alcohol and enrolling in a treatment program are the first steps in the recovery process. However, it takes some additional effort to repair the physical and mental damage while striving to maintain long-term sobriety.
It’s not uncommon for recovery survivors to experience side effects such as cognitive impairment, skin disorders, a weakened immune system, high blood pressure and/or a weakened heart, damage to neurotransmitters, stress, relationship issues, lack of sleep, and poor diet — thus leading to nutritional deficiencies.
While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to treatment since everyone’s situation is unique, there is one common activity that can help reverse some of the damage and inspire a healthier lifestyle: exercise. While it’s important to speak with a physician before starting any physical fitness program (especially given the effects of illicit substances on the body), from Philly2Philly, here’s why and how recovery survivors should jump on the exercise bandwagon.
The universal benefits of exercise are particularly important for anyone recovering from an addiction as they target their mental and physical needs. For example, physical activity elevates mood, relieves feelings of depression, boosts bone density and increases lean muscle mass. It also promotes more energy, reduces the risk of chronic disease, improves skin health, boosts cognitive ability and reduces pain. At the same time, it facilitates a better sex life, and improves sleep. All of the above can be adverse affects of the addiction cycle.
Activities to Consider
Even simple walking is a great way to ease into a program. The best part is, there are no limitations for the long-term providing one’s health is in check. With that in mind, it’s not uncommon for recovery survivors to experience alcohol-induced muscle disease (AIMD) or atrophy (wasting away of tissue), so it’s best to start slowly and consider non-weight bearing activities such as cycling and swimming — water activities are actually favored in a case such as this.
Working a pet into a physical fitness program has benefits that are two-fold, as animals have been known to prompt faster recovery, aid the detox process, boost mood, and prevent relapse. A pet also means having to be responsible for a living creature, which can provide a sense of awareness. Some common activities include dog yoga, trail running, ultimate frisbee and more. Joining a team sport can help repair self-esteem issues. This can build self-confidence and respect. It also helps develop social and teamwork skills, while promoting camaraderie and sportsmanship.
Maintaining an overall healthy lifestyle is difficult for everyone — not just recovery survivors. However, according to science, making an effort to move, eating a plant-based diet (no need to become 100 percent vegan or vegetarian though), getting enough sleep, and addressing your mental health, it can be easier to create a semblance of balance in your life. When it comes to finding the motivation to workout, try writing down how you feel after every workout, put your gear on first-thing in the morning, ask yourself if you’ll regret skipping a sweat session, sign-up and pre-pay for classes so you’re committed, and get a workout buddy to help you stay accountable.
Music can also be a great sidekick for any workout routine. Create a playlist of your favorite motivational songs and use an armband with quickmount to bring your phone (and those jams!) along with you on your workout. Maintenance is really another way of saying self-care. So, by putting your needs first, you’ll be more apt to stay on track.
Along with physical activity, there are some other ways recovery survivors can address their mental health. For example, start a gratitude journal, focus on the moment, open up to someone, conduct a random act of kindness. You can even take time out to reconnect with yourself through meditation or conscious breathing. The big picture can be overwhelming. While it’s easy to do, don’t forget the little things that can make a big difference.
About the Author
Jason Lewis is a personal trainer by day and the primary caretaker of his mom after her surgery. He writes for Strong Well and enjoys creating fitness programs that cater to the needs of people over 65.
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