Relapse Prevention and Regular Exercise

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Physical activity can decrease the risk of relapse for people in recovery from substance use disorder (SUD). A healthy mind starts with taking care of your body. Many people recovering from substance misuse find themselves malnourished and physically exhausted throughout the day. The longer a person uses substances, the worse the health issues become. According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, adults should, on average, have at least 150 to 300 minutes of physical activity every week.  A few positive side effects of regular exercise include:
  • Feeling more energized throughout your day
  • Sleeping more deeply and for longer at night
  • More balanced moods
  • Decreased stress, anxiety, and depressive symptoms
A 2015 paper from The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse concluded, “research conducted suggests that exercise may be an effective adjunctive treatment for SUDs.” In addition, “individuals with SUDs face elevated risks of multiple comorbid mental and physical health problems,” which means you will gain greater benefits from physical activities.  Your fitness level will impact several aspects of recovery, including:
  • Risk factors related to developing additional conditions
  • The timeline of your detox and withdrawal
  • The effectiveness of treatments 

Physical Health Impacts the Withdrawal Timeline

Depending on what substance you abused, the withdrawal period can vary significantly from a few days to months. Your physical health during and after your treatment program will impact the timeline of your recovery.  Protracted withdrawal can sometimes last years for individuals who have been battling SUD for a long time. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “Chronic substance use causes molecular, cellular, and neurocircuitry changes to the brain that affect emotions and behavior and that persist after acute withdrawal has ended.”  During treatment at White House Recovery and Detox or other facilities, you will have a structured schedule that includes access to regular nutritional meals and optional exercise routines, including:
  • Yoga
  • Swimming
  • Walking, hiking, or jogging
  • Biking
  • Pilates
  • Gym Workouts
Spending time in nature is also known to decrease stress, anxiety, and depression. Learn more about the advantages of outdoor activities by reading our page on Nature Time. Exercise will help you stay fit and healthy but being outdoors while doing it has additional benefits, including: 
  • Increased concentration and relaxation
  • Lower risk of heart disease and other conditions
  • Vitamin D from sunlight ensures your body can better absorb other nutrients

Dual Diagnosis and Physical Inactivity

The risk for developing comorbidities like diabetes and other health conditions increases when you remain inactive. Depression and other mental health disorders that commonly co-occur with SUDs tend to lower activity rates in some people. You may feel tired, lethargic, or anxious with no motivation.  To create a healthy and sober future, you need to look after your physical and mental well-being. Three ways you can do this are listed below: #1. If you have heightened risk factors for any conditions, speak with your doctor about activities you can try to lower those risks. For example, exercising two and a half hours a week can significantly decrease your chances of developing heart disease.  #2. Look for community organizations or classes for activities that you find interesting. For example, dancing, swimming, pilates, and boating are all great ways to keep yourself active and positively engaging with others during your recovery.  #3. If you have a pet, dedicate several hours a week to playing with them or walking them around your neighborhood. 

Stress, Your Brain, and Physical Activity

Multiple research studies have proven physical activities can lower general stress, increase mood regulation, and improve overall health. A 2014 meta-analysis of the research data determined “chronic physical exercises can better increase the abstinence rate in illicit drugs abusers.” Exercise is not always about lifting weights, running on a treadmill, or doing push-ups. Mind-body exercises are incredibly common, and you can incorporate mindfulness techniques into your chosen activity. Physical actions like meditative yoga and other low-impact activities sometimes get incorporated into treatment programs.

Aftercare, Exercise, and Relapse Prevention

Low impact repetitive activities can help focus on the present. Exercises like swimming, jogging, or pilates improve the results of meditation and mindfulness exercises. You can use them to distract yourself and build up healthy routines that take the place of toxic habits.  During your continuing care, staying active remains essential. If you fall back on old behaviors and start feeling the way you did when you were abusing substances, triggers could potentially increase the risk of relapse. Recovery is about taking back control of your life and creating a better, healthier future for yourself. You can look for local activities to keep you busy and give you a chance to socialize in a safe environment.  Regular exercise is essential for your mental and physical well-being. How often you exercise each day is less important than the fact that you take the time to become more active and take care of your body. Remaining sedentary after treatment will increase the risk of relapse and leave you feeling lousy. Exercising more does not always mean going to the gym every day. It simply means doing anything that keeps you from sitting for the majority of the day. At White House Recovery and Detox, we encourage exercising and outdoor activities to make it easier to focus and learn mindfulness techniques to help you during your recovery. Long-term sobriety includes keeping your body fit by eating right and exercising. The White House Recovery and Detox staff is here to help you find a healthier way to move forward. Learn more about our services by calling us today at (800) 510-5393.