The Role of Exercise, Nutrition, and Relaxation in Addiction and Recovery

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Many of us already know that exercise, better nutrition, and relaxation are key to a balanced and healthy life. What many of us might not realize is the three are very important in addiction recovery. A combination of the three can help improve the emotional and physical health of people recovering from substance and alcohol abuse. Additionally, they have been shown to play a role in helping prevent relapse. If you have sought professional rehabilitation or substance abuse treatment, it is likely that you were not taking care of your body and mind as well as you should have. In this article, we are going to look at the roles exercising, relaxing, and eating well play in addiction recovery.

Relaxation and Recreation During Recovery

Physical activity and involvement in physical activity have been shown to play a crucial role in reducing the stress that can lead to a relapse. Regular exercise can also reduce boredom, which can also be a trigger for some, as well as fill up some of the free time addicts have. Also, physical activity can restore a sense of emotional balance, another key factor in helping reduce the chances of relapses.

Many addicts who are just starting their recovery are likely to have also been physically inactive for a long time. It is therefore important that they talk to a healthcare professional before starting exercising. A physician or other healthcare workers will help them ease into any workouts and exercise programs. In addition to tailoring personalized workout programs, physicians can also help addicts avoid overdoing things, so they do not injure themselves or get discouraged if they do not see the desired effects soon enough.

It is important to move gradually and not aim to become a world-class athlete immediately. If you are not able to get into a gym to exercise, simple things like taking a 10-minute walk around your neighborhood, playing with your kids in the park, or riding a bike can all help. If you are up to it, sports like basketball, tennis, and softball can also come in handy.

The primary aim of doing this should be to get active at a level that is comfortable for you and to keep making gradual progress so you see improvements in your health.

Nutrition: Effects of Poor Eating in Alcoholics and Drug Users

Good nutrition goes hand in hand with exercising. As studies have shown, most addicts and alcoholics ignore nutrition and good food instead of choosing their drug of choice. Instead of eating properly, most addicts spend most of their time with their drugs of choice, ignoring important aspects of their lives.

Because of this, a majority of drug addicts also suffer from malnutrition. Long-term drug use has been shown to suppress the appetite and this is why many of the addicts who enter into treatment programs often skip meals because they say they do not feel hungry.


Poor eating habits in addicts have been shown to increase the risks of some diseases. One of the most common of these is liver disease. Although liver damage is caused by the intake of a large volume of alcohol, poor nutrition has also been shown to increase the risk of liver damage associated with excessive alcohol intake.

Alcohol abuse also leads to significant pancreas damage, which makes the digestion of carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins harder. Damage to the pancreas also affects the production of insulin, which then affects the maintenance of healthy blood glucose levels.

Thiamine deficiency as seen in alcoholics can lead to brain damage. Also, nutritional deficiencies that often accompany drug and substance abuse can have severe and permanent effects on the brain.


Stimulant abuse has similar effects to alcohol abuse, but they manifest differently. For example, stimulants suppress appetites and cause dehydration. Appetite suppression leads to vitamin deficiencies which can have different effects on different parts of the body. All of these things combine to increase the risk of malnutrition in people who abuse stimulants such as cocaine and amphetamines.

The prolonged effects of stimulant abuse are often a lot dire and can include hair loss, inconsistent menstrual cycles, tooth decay, open sores, and death.

When people who abuse stimulants come down from their highs, they can overeat or binge eat, both of which lead to separate nutrition issues.

Importance of Good Nutrition in Sobriety

One of the most important reasons why good nutrition is encouraged is because it has been shown to lessen the effects of post-acute withdrawal. During the detox phase, many rehab and treatment centers insist that recovering addicts eat properly for this and other reasons that we will see below.

Addicts who have not been eating well for a long time also need proper nutrition to rebuild their bodies. Alcohol and drugs can tear a body apart, leave an addict with fewer muscles, and leave addicts with very little energy to start their drug addiction treatment and recovery programs properly.

Nutrition plans do not end when you leave the treatment center because counselors will also ask about your eating habits and nutrition once you complete the initial phase of your treatment. Follow up counselors from rehab and treatment centers like Harris House will also help guide you on making better diet choices so you can eat and feel better during the long recovery phase.

The key to proper recovery in regard to nutrition is eating a balanced diet that contains foods from different groups and following the recommended nutritional guidelines. It is recommended that addicts eat at least five servings of healthy, balanced meals per day.

As the body heals itself, those in recovery will start seeing some changes and improvements. These can include increased energy, better and improved moods, stronger immune systems, better memory, and the reduced risk of certain diseases.

Addiction recovery is challenging especially for those who are just starting their recovery. In addition to finding the help they require, there are certain things addicts can do to make things easier and avoid relapses. These include exercising, relaxing, and resting well. All three of these three things help eliminate many of the triggers that lead to relapses.


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