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Exercise is a powerful tool for addiction recovery. Evidence shows that only 30 minutes of walking a day has a benefit on mood and health. Exercise improves your mental health by releasing endorphins. These chemical hormones contribute to overall happiness and can increase your motivation and optimism, and can counteract the negative impact of substance use on the brain. Finding ways to incrementally add exercise to your daily routine will support you in taking advantage of the benefits that exercise can have on your overall recovery.

Starting Small

Any change in daily routine can be overwhelming during addiction recovery. The trick to getting started is to set small, realistic goals. It’s okay to start with just five minutes a day if the idea of dedicating more than that is enough to stop you from exercising. Having a long-term goal of 30 minutes is great, but start where you are and with what you can offer. Get into the routine of committing that time to an exercise, such as walking, and plan to increase the time in small amounts weekly. 

Keep Exercise Goals Realistic

Keeping your exercise goals realistic will help you be consistent in achieving them. It’s possible you only have five free minutes at a time. Prioritize using one block of five minutes to incorporate intentional movement in your day. This movement does not have to be anything formal. You can set a timer and see how many jumping jacks you can complete. If possible, choose a movement that excites you so that you aren’t faced with the barrier of getting started. Remember, the goal is to work movement into your day in small increments. You can build on those increments over time.

Additional ways to support you in keeping exercise a regular part of your life include having a variety of exercises to choose from. For example, some exercises are not as enjoyable or possible when the weather is poor. Knowing that you have an indoor exercise to turn to can prevent you from missing a day when it rains and will stop you from feeling like you’ve lost your progress. Working out with a buddy can also be a benefit because it holds you accountable and makes exercise more interesting.

Examples of Exercise

Walking, practicing yoga, and doing jumping jacks are just three examples of exercise you can benefit from, both mentally and physically. Take some time to think of what movements you both enjoy and have access to. Is there an exercise you enjoyed at an earlier point in your life? Perhaps you were on a swim team or did cross-country running in high school. If so, you may derive joy from picking those activities back up. In the case that your mobility has changed, yoga might be the activity that benefits you best and helps you reach other movement goals. 

There are a number of exercise options you can engage in. Consider the following:

  • Jogging
  • Boxing
  • Swimming
  • Rowing
  • Cycling
  • Climbing Stairs
  • Dancing
  • Surfing
  • Weightlifting
  • Small, repetitive exercises such as burpees or jumping jacks
  • Jumping rope

Make a list of exercises you know you can do or that you would like to build up to doing. As you add exercise to your day, check back on that list to see how you are progressing. Tracking what you’ve done and what progress you make might help keep you motivated. The key to making exercise a habit is consistency. However, if you do miss a day of exercise, don’t be too hard on yourself. Just pick up where you left off the next day and keep going. 

Additional Benefits of Exercise

Aside from boosting your mood, there are many other benefits of exercise. These include:

  • Controlling weight and preventing obesity
  • Reducing the risk of heart disease
  • Improving sleep
  • Managing blood sugar and insulin levels
  • Increasing chances of living longer
  • Helping to keep sharp thinking, learning, and judgment skills as you age
  • Reducing the risk of some cancers
  • Strengthening bone and muscles
  • Reducing the risk of falls
  • Improving sexual health

The evidence for exercise as a positive tool in life is staggering. Keep that in mind as you decide how you want to proceed in making exercise a part of your routine.

Again, the key is starting small and setting realistic goals. Choose an exercise you enjoy and know you can complete. Begin with five minutes a day. Add more time weekly to build your way up to 30 minutes daily over time. If you are still not sure where you can fit exercise into your day, think through a typical day and see if exercise can take the place of a habit you’re working to break. You might find you can replace bad habits with positive habits of movement. 

Exercise offers a number of health benefits. It can be used to ease cravings, boost mental and physical health, and replace habits that aren’t serving you. Adding exercise to your routine can start with just a few minutes a day. Once exercise becomes a habit, you can build on your routine over time. Choosing an exercise that you enjoy or exercising with a buddy will help keep you on track. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction and wants to learn more about how exercise can help with addiction recovery, contact West Coast Recovery Centers at (760) 492-6509 today. Our staff is ready to help you regain control of your life. 

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