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The Importance of Exercise in Early Addiction Recovery Treatment

Written on June 24, 2021
The Importance of Exercise in Early Addiction Recovery Treatment

Regular exercise is an essential part of holistic recovery from addiction. Not only does exercise support physical health in countless ways, it also greatly benefits mental and emotional wellbeing. In early addiction recovery from drugs and alcohol, developing an exercise routine can be of tremendous benefit to both your physical and emotional health. Exercise has been shown to reduce stress and tension, increase optimism and self-esteem, and be highly effective in lowering depression, anxiety, cravings, and other mental health issues that are prevalent in early addiction recovery. Because a regular exercise routine also supports your body by improving cardio-vascular health, sleep, immune response, and energy levels, it makes recovery that much more manageable and enjoyable.

Exercise also provides a healthy way to release endorphins in the brain, creating a natural sense of wellbeing. While substance abuse also releases endorphins, it ultimately causes an imbalance that often inhibits your ability to feel happy. Exercise can be part of a plan to restore the natural, healthy balance of endorphins in the brain after substance abuse, thus reducing drug and alcohol cravings.

At Flatirons Recovery, we help our clients develop an exercise routine that is not only sustainable, but enjoyable and fun. When done right, exercise can feed all parts of a person’s wellbeing: the physical and also the social, spiritual, and emotional. We are so privileged to be based just outside of Boulder, Colorado, a Mecca for soul-inspiring exercise. Boulder County’s options for both outdoor pursuits (hiking, rock climbing, mountain biking, paddle boarding) and mindfulness based practices (yoga, tai chi, dance) are in abundance like nowhere else. So if you end up sticking around in the Boulder area after treatment, you’ll have no shortage of options to build into your recovery routine.

Flatirons Recovery emphasizes assisting clients to find a recovery routine that they look forward to doing and that improves their lives on multiple levels. This makes exercise more sustainable and valuable in the long term, not just for early recovery but as an integral part of a healthy and fun sober lifestyle in long-term recovery. At Flatirons Recovery, in addition to gym access, here are a few forms of exercise we integrate into our programming to help foster holistic recovery from addiction:

  1. HikingHiking is about moving through space, literally leaving the old behind and bringing yourself, stride by stride, towards the new. There is so much power and catharsis in something as simple as going from point A to point B, of witnessing your body push through resistance and self-doubt as you move towards your end goal. When you increase your altitude, there is the additional surreal experience of changed perspective. Looking down from the summit of a mountain you didn’t think you could conquer, seeing how far you have literally risen with your hard work, connects us to some of the sweetest parts of recovery. It gives us confidence in ourselves and our own feet to lift us, even when it feels almost impossible.Hiking also connects us with nature, which is healing in and of itself. When we hike, the natural beauty surrounding us brings us both serenity and wonderment. Our feet moving along the earth both calms and grounds us. Hiking is wonderful because here in Colorado, there are trails to fit every ability and level of fitness. On a leisurely stroll only minutes aways from our office, you can walk along a Davidson Mesa, towering over Boulder and offering views of the snow capped Rocky Mountains. Or drive twenty minutes into the foothills for an unforgettable, rigorous summit of one of the peaks that boarder Colorado’s wilderness. We offer hiking excursions at Flatirons Recovery several times a week, giving all of our clients a chance to experience the the healing power of the Colorado wilderness.
  2. YogaYoga is a wonderful mindfulness practice for early addiction recovery. A form of meditation in and of itself, yoga helps those who practice it develop greater awareness and tolerance of their emotional experience, thereby alleviating some of the intensity of cravings, anxiety, stress, depression, and other symptoms commonly present when recovering from drug and alcohol addiction. Practicing yoga activates the parasympathetic nervous system by balancing stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, imparting a sense of calm, wellbeing, and groundedness.On the physical level, yoga can alleviate chronic pain, enhance both strength and flexibility, and aid in better sleep and digestion. Yoga can be easy to add into your life’s routine, as it can be done anywhere with little to no equipment. At Flatirons Recovery, our curriculum includes weekly yoga classes that are designed to specifically aid in early addiction recovery. If you choose to stay in the Boulder area after completing treatment, you will find yourself surrounded by an abundance of world class yoga studios to help you continue your practice.
  3. Rock ClimbingRock climbing connects us to our innate power, resilience, and grit. All climbers, whether beginners or professionals, regularly find themselves face to face with their edge, with what they thought was possible for their bodies to achieve. Climbing puts us in touch with the reserve of strength we didn’t know we had, buried deep within our core. It also helps us feel into our limits, letting us know when we need to take a break and try again another day.Just like addiction recovery, most cliffs cannot be scaled alone. We rely on community in rock climbing, and literally put our lives in the hands of others to catch us when we fall. All too often, addiction leaves people feeling isolated and alone. Rock climbing is a practice of relearning to trust and be trusted, of leaning into the power of community. The Boulder area is a world-renowned climbing destination, and Flatirons Recovery takes full advantage of Boulder’s climbing scene by offering both indoor and outdoor climbing excursions to our clients in treatment.