It’s no secret that relapse rates for drug addiction are high. But, don’t let that discourage you or become an excuse to fall back on bad habits. Treatment programs that include exercise routines result in lower rates of relapse than people who do not exercise during recovery. Everyone facing addiction recovery can benefit from adopting a daily fitness routine and actively working to improve their mental health.

Alternative Coping Methods Help You Avoid Relapse

Finding alternative methods for coping with negative emotions is key to avoiding relapse from drug abuse. First, it’s important to manage your environment by avoiding people, places or items that trigger cravings. Distraction techniques are valuable to keep your mind on something other than your drug of choice. These will help you improve your mental health by relaxing your body and reducing anxiety.

Gentle physical activity, such as swimming at the local pool, will help relieve stress and get you out of the house where you may be at risk boredom, a common cause of relapse. Get on the phone with a friend who can chat you up and help you forget about your cravings. Meditation and yoga are great ways to focus your mind on your breath and avoid negative thoughts. Alternative coping methods such as these that focus on stress-reduction are the most effective.

Fitness Benefits Your Mental Health

People suffering from addiction often experience comorbid mental disorders. According to the Harvard Medical School, exercise actually improves mood disorders such as anxiety and depression by causing your body to release feel-good hormones. Aerobic exercises reduce the activity of your brain’s fight-or-flight systems and can help you build up a tolerance to feelings of anxiety. For people battling depressive symptoms, exercise may boost mood by increasing brain proteins that help neurons grow and regenerate.

Exercise Helps Your Body Recover

Of course, exercise will help your body grow strong and resilient. Physical fitness even has the power to reduce inflammation in the body, according to Forbes. This helps your body avoid disease and heal itself from damage caused by abused substances. Exercise also promotes the recovery of your immune system that may have been weakened by drugs. Did you know that drug addiction can cause cognitive decline and accelerated aging? Luckily, exercise can slow aging, helping you look younger and live longer.

Gentle Exercises are Best for Recovering Addicts

According to The Telegraph, recovering addicts should start with one week of walking to gently introduce their bodies to regular exercise. Walking is simple, requires no equipment, and can fit into almost any schedule. After this, add a full-body workout to your routine at least twice per week. Make sure you engage all of your muscle groups: yoga, Pilates, or a simple bodyweight workout are great options.

As you progress through recovery, try out different types of exercise until you develop a fitness routine that you enjoy. For example, you may want to replace your walks with runs to receive the endorphin-fueled runner’s high that comes from pushing your body hard. Just make sure you don’t overdo it! Recent drug abuse may have caused some physical damage to your body that needs to heal before you exert yourself too much.

Keep Up Your Routine for the Long-Term

Creating a regular routine will help you kick bad habits and adopt new, healthy ones. Plus, routines are vastly beneficial to people in addiction recovery because they provide order and stability in times of stress. In your routine, make time for a consistent sleep schedule, regular hydration, a healthy diet and daily exercise. Importantly, don’t forget to make time for relaxing and enjoying yourself with healthy activities such as hobbies or walks in nature.

Engaging in regular physical activity will equip you with higher levels of self-esteem and happiness. You’ll overcome challenges, reach new goals and learn how to develop healthy habits. Start small and build upon your newfound strengths with engaging workouts as you strive for greater health!

Author – Susan Treadway