Have you ever known anyone in addiction recovery who became a fitness freak? It’s a common scenario, especially these days. And there’s a good reason why people recovering from addiction might turn to fitness. For one, it helps to have measurable goals that aren’t tied to addiction.

But there are many more reasons why people in recovery become dedicated to fitness. Here are few common ones:

Exercise helps relieve stress

When you’re battling addiction, stress levels are high. You’re stressed because your body wants drugs and your mind has to overcome that. But you’re also stressed because your brain chemicals have been thrown out of whack. Without a steady supply of dopamine that the drug provided, your brain must figure out a new normal. This is part of the reason why stress and anxiety are so high in recovery.

Fortunately, exercise offers a healthy way to combat stress. The simple act of moving your body relieves tension and can help usher out negativity.

Exercise helps improve mental clarity

The Mayo Clinic describes exercise as “meditation in motion.” When you exercise, your mind is focused on movement. Especially with intense exercise, you need to focus your mind on what your body is doing. You can think of it as a form of meditation.

Instead of letting your mind wander to drugs or a difficult recovery, you’re laser-focused on the task at hand.

If you want to take this concept to the next level, consider practicing yoga or tai chi. With either of these practices, you will learn how to put more emphasis on being mindful while you exercise.

Exercise helps regulate brain chemistry

Addiction and recovery are both very taxing on your brain. When you’re addicted, your mind gets used to an outside source of dopamine, so it produces less. Your brain and body come to crave that dopamine, and it’s difficult to function without it. When you stop doing drugs, your brain needs time to adjust.

During this time and beyond, exercise can help. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins. Endorphins create a natural high. So, when your body is reeling from the loss of feel-good chemicals, exercise can help replenish some. It’s not going to completely rebalance your brain chemistry, but it will help move things in the right direction.

Exercise improves your self-confidence

When you’re exercising regularly over time, your appearance will begin to change for the better. Your skin will develop a healthy glow, and your muscle tone will become more apparent. As you start looking healthier, you’re likely to feel better about yourself.

You may get compliments on how you look, and the way you feel may match your outer appearance.

How to get the most out of exercise in recovery

If you want to get the most out of your effort, start by setting goals. Your goals can be intense, or they can be small. Do whatever you think will motivate you most.

The most important part of this journey is to remain consistent, so set a goal that’s easy to achieve. Here are some tips for sticking with your exercise program:

  1. Hold yourself accountable – In recovery, you’re accountable for a lot. This will add another to-do to your list, but remember that it’ll also help you achieve other goals. To hold yourself accountable, involve another person. Whether you plan to run a marathon or just hit the gym every day, let someone know what you’re doing. For bonus points, you can even ask them to check in on your progress.
  2. Make exercise fun – When it’s been a while since you’ve been active, exercise always feels like a chore. It’s not until you’re in a routine that you actually start enjoying your workouts. So to get started, choose something fun. It could be anything, including dance, volleyball or running.
  3. Workout with someone – Some people prefer to workout alone. But when you work out alone, you’re the only one responsible for your progress. No one will know if you skip a workout or dial it in every day. On the other hand, with a workout buddy or a group, you know people are watching. If you miss a workout or take it too easy, you’ll have to explain yourself. Oftentimes, that alone is enough motivation to get people working out again.

In recovery, you’re responsible for a lot. But instead of thinking of exercise as another thing to do, think of it as a means to achieve your other goals. Exercise will help make the recovery process a bit easier, and that’s worth doing. Addiction recovery is hard enough as it is.

If you’re struggling with addiction or are having trouble sticking to your recovery plan, be sure to get the help you need. And once you’re on track, start exercising. You’ll be glad you did.