In my experience, many patients with various substance use disorders have found exercise to be beneficial to their healing and recovery. This can be especially true for those that are in early recovery and are experiencing some post-acute withdrawal symptoms, more commonly referred to as PAWS.

Exercise Can Battle Withdrawal Symptoms

Many people talk about the loss of energy, fatigue, sleeplessness that may be present during this healing process. Exercise can be a great tool to offset some of these symptoms.

Exercise does NOT need to be complicated! Exercise takes many different shapes and forms. It could be a low impact walk or a high intensity boot camp workout. Please take note that the intensity level does not equate to effectiveness; one size does not fit all!

Exercise Provides Structure In Your Day

Having structure is very important during early recovery. Having a regular and consistent exercise plan can occupy some of that space and provides you with control and predictability.

It is also something that can prevent you from engaging in other unhealthy activities, for example: “I can’t go out drinking tonight because I have a workout in the morning.” Exercise can even help to restore a normal sleep schedule.

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Exercise During Recovery Feels Good

Once your body begins to heal and your overall state of mind starts to shift, you will start to feel good after engaging in exercise. Start with an exercise that you know is enjoyable to you, especially if you are in early stages of recovery, since your body and mind are beginning to heal.

Be sure to set yourself up for success. Once you have had a few successful experiences, think about trying something new to continue to stretch your exercise skills!

Exercise is Good for Your Brain

Research shows that exercise can increase the nerve connections in your brain, which will help heal the damage that occurred while actively using substances and alcohol. Exercise has also been found to help decrease symptoms of depression. For those in early recovery, it can decrease urges to use and distract from cravings.

Overall, exercise has so many benefits that I hope this has sparked your motivation!

Amanda Pitts, LADC-1

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