One of the keys to long-term recovery is engaging in healthy activities. One such activity is participating in sports.
Whether it is running, martial arts, weightlifting, or participating in a recreational basketball league, taking part in sports can be invaluable in keeping you clean and sober in the long run.
Sports not only keep you in great physical shape, but the psychological benefits of exercise associated with sports also goes a long way to promote positive self-image and esteem.
The following are the main benefits of participating in sports as part of a recovery program:
1. Sports Help Improve Mood
If you are in early recovery, you no doubt have experienced an emotional rollercoaster. As your brain repairs itself, you will experience moods that can seem too intense for you to cope. Getting vigorous exercise through sports floods the brain with dopamine. Dopamine is the brains “feel good” neurotransmitter. As a result, you feel happier and more relaxed. Additionally, sports provide social comfort and connection in a team setting.
2. Improved Concentration
Another benefit of sports in addiction recovery is it helps to improve your concentration. Engaging regularly in sports helps keep mental clarity and focus. Sports help to achieve a flow state which allows you to experience the calm state of focus that comes from being engaged in an activity that allows you to take your mind off of stressors. This can help develop and strengthen the areas of judgment, critical thinking, and learning. These domains are crucial for the recovering addict in increasing the chances of long-term recovery.
3. Reduces Stress and Depression
As already stated, regular vigorous exercise through sports helps to balance the nervous system and help reduce the levels of stress hormones such as cortisol. Additionally, playing sports helps stimulate dopamine production and increase endorphin levels. These hormones help promote relaxation and increase levels of happiness, which help counter feelings of stress and depression. In recovery, daily stressors and depression are among the most common causes for relapse. The exercise and camaraderie associated with sports foster feelings of inclusion and confidence which help build a sense of support that can help maintain sobriety while in recovery.
4. Better Sleep
Regular exercise through sports also helps in recovery by improving the quality of your sleep, by reducing stress and helping to balance hormone levels. Sport outside during the day have the benefit of getting sunlight exposure, which helps regulate circadian rhythms and helps to improve sleep at night. When you get restful sleep, you will be sharper mentally and you will have a more positive outlook. However, you want to be sure that you don’t engage in strenuous physical activity too late in the day. If this occurs, you may be too “hyped up” to sleep and disruptions in your sleep cycle will decrease mental functioning and outlook.
5. Maintain Healthy Weight
The greatest benefit of sports in addiction recovery is that it tones muscle and helps you maintain a healthy weight. This reduces the risk of developing hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and high cholesterol. Additionally, maintaining a healthy weight boosts self-esteem and body image. When you look good and feel good, you are more motivated to continue working a program of recovery with vigor. One of the benefits of using sports as a form of weight loss and it’s both competitive and fun which allows you to get exercise without realizing how much time has gone by. In comparison to an activity such as riding a stationary bike or running on a treadmill, sports can be much more engaging and easier to stay consistent with.
Things to Watch Out For
There is no doubt that participating in sports in addiction recovery provides numerous benefits. However, too much of a good thing can become an issue for those who are prone to addiction. Because exercise releases a significant amount of dopamine in the brain, the high you experience while exercising can be addictive. If you find yourself over-exercising or obsessing about needing to exercise more or constantly push harder, it’s important to understand the importance of rest and recovery.
Additionally, overexertion does increase injuries such as sprains, contusions and even injuries to the brain. The pain and discomfort and resulting inactivity can allow the mind to wander. If left unchecked, thoughts of using substances and cravings to use can become more frequent. There is absolutely nothing wrong with engaging in sports and exercise activity as long as it is done in moderation and is part of a healthy and balanced daily schedule.
Whether you’re new to sobriety or further along on your recovery journey, sports can be a great way to improve your health, while building new relationships, and improving your levels of happiness. If you use to play a sport loved, or have always wanted to try out a new sport, now might be the time to get out there and improve your game. Sports are a great addition to healthy sober lifestyle and can go a long way in helping to maintain long-term sobriety.