The term “exercise” is significantly used in our society to encourage healthy habits. Particularly in recovery, there are both mental and physical benefits to getting regular exercise. However, what exactly should exercise look like for women in recovery? Can exercise affect the work you are doing to heal from trauma? How can you know if you are getting the right kind of exercise? Is there such a thing as too much exercise? What type of exercise is best for someone in early recovery?
What Does Regular Exercise Look Like in Recovery?
The truth is that exercise looks different for everyone depending on their individual circumstances. In treatment, many will encourage you to move or exercise regularly, which usually means five to seven times per week. How long you exercise each day depends on several factors:
- Whether or not you have been exercising regularly prior to treatment
- If you are pregnant
- Your current health condition
- Your age
- Any physical limitations you may have
- Whether or not you are processing a lot of trauma
- If you have body image issues or an eating disorder
When beginning or changing an exercise program, it is ideal to consult with your doctor or a medical health professional to assess your overall health and receive recommendations regarding the amount and type of exercise your body is capable of. Discussing beginning potential exercise in treatment can also be discussed with your therapist to determine what is mentally healthy for you. There is also excellent information available from reputable sources about types of body movement and exercise and how to get started.
What Are the Best Types of Exercise in Treatment and Recovery?
For most women, starting regular exercise routines in recovery can be challenging on top of all the other changes you are making. Starting simple with body movement is probably best for your body and will lead to the most successful outcome as well. Easy ideas to incorporate into your daily routine include:
- Taking a slow walk can eventually be lengthened as you build a habit
- Trauma-informed yoga is great for the body, mind, and spirit
- Listen to music and dance
Exercise for Health vs. Exercise for Body Image
Exercising for your health involves being proactive in order to feel better mentally and physically. You are acting upon the desire to care for yourself and give yourself health and longevity. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are many immediate and long-term benefits of exercise. Some of these benefits include:
- Improved sleep quality
- Reduced blood pressure
- Lowered anxiety
- Boosts immune system
- Reduced risk of dementia, including Alzheimer’s
- Lowers risk of depression
- Reduces risk of heart disease, stroke, and Type 2 Diabetes
- Lowers risk of multiple forms of cancer
- Reduces risk of weight gain
- Improves bone strength
- Improves balance and coordination
Some people exercise because they are unhappy with the way they look and wish to change their appearance by losing weight, lowering body fat, or toning muscles. This is the opposite of self-care and can have serious consequences. Exercising because you are unhappy with your body image is motivated by negative thought processes and often leads to unhealthy behaviors surrounding diet and exercise.
The Dangers of Too Much Exercise
One of the consequences of those who exercise due to negative body image is that they exercise too much. Too much exercise has many side effects, including sleep disturbances, injuries, and anxiety.
For some people, exercise becomes a compulsion. This is especially true of those in early recovery, who may replace the euphoria of substances with the natural endorphins in exercise, similar to a replacement addiction. You may have an exercise compulsion if:
- You feel anxious or guilty if you do not exercise
- You exercise even when you are sick or injured
- You miss work, school, social events, or other obligations to exercise
- Exercising is no longer fun
- Others are concerned about how much you exercise
- You stop having your periods
Compulsive exercise has its own consequences, including problems with your heart, bones, muscles, and nervous system. Many women also experience eating disorders.
Finding Your Perfect Fitness Routine
Exercise for women in recovery should look like balance. You should find your own perfect fitness routine that creates harmony with your body, mind, and spirit. Your exercise should not interfere with your recovery and should enhance everything you are doing to heal, especially healing from trauma. Starting simple and easy with simple body movement is ideal since your mind and body are already undergoing such intense transformation.
Your exercise routine should simply support the transformation you are experiencing, not detract from it. Taking a nice, slow walk allows you to move your body and clear your mind. Trauma-informed yoga helps heal your mind, body, and spirit. These are the types of activities that will help you in your healing process.
What should exercise look like for women in recovery? Exercise should be appropriate for you and your needs, motivated by self-care, and enhance your recovery process. You can improve your mental and physical health by using activities such as walking or yoga without distracting from your trauma work. At The Ho Tai Way – Recovery For Women, we encourage women to exercise appropriately to improve their overall health during treatment for addiction. Our Costa Mesa, California facility offers access to great weather for yoga and walks near the beach. Our trauma-informed care helps women with addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders to find mental, physical, and spiritual healing. We offer truly individualized treatment plans for you because each patient is unique and has individual needs. How can we help you find your perfect fitness routine? Contact us at (714) 581-3974 today.