Can exercise help you stay clean after rehab? It certainly offers plenty of benefits to help prevent a relapse, from promoting self-efficacy to preventing negative feelings and stress. Let’s look at some of the reasons why exercise may be a valuable tool to help you on the path to leading a healthy life after rehab.
Exercise provides a pleasurable experience without drugs or alcohol.
Going for a run around the neighborhood or biking at the gym might not sound like everyone’s idea of a good time, but exercise actually causes the brain to release some of the same chemicals that are released when you drink or do drugs. Dopamine is the primary chemical released in the brain in response to any kind of reward, so exercising can provide a positive alternative to drugs and alcohol for those who still crave that kick without resorting to chemical enhancement (Science Daily).Read more: Effectiveness of Substance Abuse Treatment
Exercise helps reduce stress.
Leading a healthy life after rehab is as much about looking out for your mental well-being as it is about your physical well-being. Alcohol and substance abusers will often cite stress as a reason for their behavior, so it’s important for people recovering from addiction to limit the amount of negative stress in their lives. Studies have shown that individuals who regularly exercise display a reduced psychological and social response to stress when compared with those who don’t exercise on a regular basis (National Institutes of Health). Therefore, exercise can provide a healthy outlet to cope with daily stressors. Pretty good reason to hit the gym or the trails, no?
Exercise promotes happiness.
When you exercise, you release endorphins, a brain chemical associated with feeling happy or euphoric. Even going for a 20-40 minute walk three times a week can promote happiness and reduce the symptoms of depression. If staying positive has been a challenge after rehab, or if you have a history of depression, exercise can help stave off negative feelings and keep you optimistic about your recovery.
Exercise can help you establish a regular routine.
Getting back into a daily routine can be difficult after rehab, where most patients have their days crammed full of classes and meetings and counseling sessions. Unfortunately, finding a routine is vital, because it allows you to keep your mind busy and avoid thinking about getting high because you have a clear plan. Making exercise a regular part of your day can help you achieve this. If your sleep schedule has been upset in rehab, exercise can even help you get a full night’s sleep. Exercise has been proven to help regulate a disrupted daily biological cycle into which sleep plays a part, so it’s an ideal outlet for anyone who has been experiencing insomnia.
Exercise promotes self-efficacy and empowerment.
By making exercise a part of your day, you are demonstrating to yourself that you are making a positive choice and are in control of your life. This sense of self-control can help give you the coping mechanisms needed to stay sober. Leading a healthy life after rehab will begin to feel much more achievable if you actively make the decision to start exercising.
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