Recovery from substance abuse is an arduous process, one that most cannot face alone. You’ll need people and activities around you to make your journey a little easier and prevent—or at least limit—relapse. We’ll walk through the recovery process and see how regular exercise helps.
The Recovery Process
The recovery process comprises four major steps: Intake, detox, rehab, and recovery.
Intake: This involves assessing the degree of abuse, the extent of damage, and the appropriate treatment plan. It usually involves a medical examination, physical assessment, psychological evaluation, and psychosocial assessment to accurately diagnose the condition and to devise a holistic approach to treatment. This is done by professionals in treatment centers—you should never use a google search or online resource to self-diagnose.
Detox: This involves the removal of harmful substances from the body. It is usually one of the hardest phases of recovery as symptoms of withdrawal begin to occur. These withdrawal symptoms range from uncomfortable to dangerous depending on the substance being abused. Withdrawal from some substances can be deadly and you should never go through it without medical assistance. Some of these substances include Alcohol, Benzodiazepine, and Opioid. The amount of time these symptoms last depend on the drug abused, the length of time of the abuse, the dose administered each time, genetic makeup, and family medical history. To start the detox process it is advisable to visit an addiction treatment center.
Rehab: This is where treatment begins. After the addictive substance(s) have been removed from the system, patients undergo several forms of therapy based on their needs. Some forms of recommended therapy include cognitive behavioral therapy, rational emotive behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, and even faith-based rehab. Depending on the damage done, a patient may be recommended to undergo inpatient or outpatient care.
Recovery: Recovery is a lifelong process and patients are advised to join support groups or adopt certain lifestyles to facilitate their growth and prevent relapse. It is at this phase that patients participate in 12-step groups and programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous or take up a new hobby, passion project and move forward with their lives.
Where Does Exercise Come In?
Exercise comes in usually at the end of the rehab stage but can be used at all stages of recovery. A study shows that any amount of exercise helps to reduce the chances of relapse. Note that exercise is a planned physical activity for a specified amount of time, other physical activities like gardening, chores, etc. do not classify as exercise.
Experts recognize exercise as a legitimate way to reduce dependence on substances and even forge positive connections with others on a similar journey. This is because exercise—in addition to strengthening the body—provides several mental benefitsto recovering patients, including improved sleep, increased energy levels, elevated mood, and a list of others.
An article by Havard Health also shows that exercise improves memory and cognitive abilities. And other publications list mind-boosting effects of exercise.
Exercises That Help Recovery
While all exercise is good, there are a number of them that specifically aid recovery. They include:
- Aerobics: Aerobic dancing, cycling, running, using the treadmill are just some of the exercises under aerobics. Aerobics enhances cognitive performance, lowers blood pressure, strengthens the immune system, among other benefits.
- Yoga: Yoga is known for its physical and mental effects on the body. It improves flexibility, awareness, and increases concentration.
- Water sports: Water sports like swimming, bodyboarding, and even surfing can help in recovery. An animal study shows that regular swimming reduces the severity of dependence on morphine in morphine-dependent rats. Signing up for swimming or bodyboarding lessons is a good idea.