The epidemic of opiate addiction was already raging in our small city of Rutland, Vermont. The Covid-19 pandemic has only made things worse. Our gym, CrossFit RisingStar, is a neighbor of a local addiction recovery clinic. Every day, over 500 people from all walks of life are treated there for addiction.
Research clearly shows that exercise helps your body, whether you’re in recovery or not. Improved long term fitness helps with cardio-vascular health and diabetes, lowers the risk of some types of cancers, stimulates the immune system, and can even help alleviate depression symptoms. Further research shows that exercise can increase the amount of new nerve connections in the brain, which helps our brains heal from the harm our drug of choice has been causing. As the body and mind continue to return to a more normal state many people in recovery find exercise also helps restore a normal sleep schedule.
Addiction changes your body chemistry. Once addictive substances are removed from the body, people might feel anxious, depressed or more easily stressed. The good news is that physical activity can help. Whether new to addiction recovery or free from harmful substances for several years, there are several proven benefits to regular exercise.
Stress can lead to relapse if not properly managed. One of the ways that you can reduce and control stress is through exercise. Physical activity releases feel-good endorphins in the brain and improves circulation, both of which can help with stress.
Many people begin using alcohol or drugs because they struggle to switch off or get to sleep. Regular exercise can improve both the quality and quantity of sleep.
Exercise releases endorphins in the brain, which create feelings of happiness and wellbeing. According to the Mayo Clinic, just 30 minutes of exercise per day is enough to affect a positive change in mood.
Perhaps the greatest incentive to get regular exercise in addiction recovery is that regular movement can help prevent a return to alcohol or drug use. A collection of studies suggest that regular exercise can increase the abstinence rate for substance use by 95 percent.
The Role of Community in Recovery
If you’ve ever dropped in to CrossFit Rising Star, you’ll know we’re a tight knit community. In fact, one of the things that people love most about CrossFit (beyond the thrusters) is the sense of community that they get at their box. Coping with an addiction can be isolating. Some addictions can leave you feeling alone or cut-off from your social circle.
It is essential – especially early in recovery – to find a support community. During treatment, many people facing addiction have to let go of old relationships and re-examine their social lives. Family and friends may not always understand the changes they make or might still be participating in the activities from which they are trying to abstain. An effective support community can help avoid feelings of isolation and allow those in recovery to make connections with others experiencing the same feelings as they are. When peers come together with a shared mission of recovery, the development of other healthy lifestyle habits is often a happy side effect.
Recovery requires a constant commitment and dedication to the journey ahead. Building a support community is essential not only to maintaining sobriety, but to find joy in new friendships, hobbies, and activities. Forging relationships with those with common interests and value systems will allow participants to move forward with healthier, happier lives.
What can I do?
Donate. The more money we raise, the more people in recovery we’ll be able to support. To bring our full plan to life, we’re aiming to raise $20,000 by December 31, 2020. To thank you for your support, we have a few special incentives: