A doctor friend of mine has an adage that applies to recovery from physical injury but also relates to addiction recovery. He says, “Use it or lose it.” In other words, moving your body, even on a slow walk, is good for what ails you. But do you know how good? Or that walking provides additional benefits to those recovering from substance use disorders? Especially those attempting to rebuild a healthy lifestyle and reverse the effects of long-term drug or alcohol use. The best news about taking a walk is that it is free, easy to do, and a foolproof way to get your sober self “using it” after years of “losing it” to active addiction.
Walking for Addiction Recovery
One of the many reasons folks do not follow through on resolutions to move their bodies is that they make it hard. For example, I have to join a gym but can’t afford it, or I need to get in shape before I join an exercise class. So let’s make this simple. You do not need to call a friend, spend money or feel anxious about your lack of skill. Instead, grab a pair of comfortable shoes and a water bottle and walk. Benefits abound.
12 Good Reasons to Take a Walk:
1. People who walk are happy.
Hiking decreases depression and feelings of hopelessness. It also allows us to connect with nature and ourselves, bringing a sense of well-being.
2. Walking improves sleep quality.
Sleep patterns are disrupted in early addiction recovery. A bracing walk in the fresh air makes you tired and enhances REM sleep.
3. Your heart, lungs, and blood vessels will thank you.
Hiking and walking improve cardio-respiratory fitness. And the farther you get from the madding crowd, the cleaner the oxygen.
4. Walking improves muscular fitness.
Without putting too much stress on your joints, the muscles in your legs, glutes, and core will strengthen on the winding, tilting path.
5. Movement for the joy of it!
An essential part of recovery from addiction or an eating disorder is honoring body diversity and encouraging movement for health and enjoyment, not to lose weight. So move for the joy of it!
6. Walk to improve creativity.
Spend time out of doors, and your attention span and brain power increase – creative juices flow more freely when you are active than sitting.
7. Walking Increases bone density
Especially if you walk with a pack, you get plenty of “load-bearing” exercise.
8. Walking improves your connections.
Walking connects you to the people you are with and your inner self without distractions from day-to-day stressors. The serene silence when you are alone recharges you to the core.
9. The challenge increases self-esteem!
Winding your way on a challenging track and taking responsibility for your actions improves emotional and physical stability.
10. Hiking provides beautiful views!
The sounds, smells, and sights in the majesty of nature have a calming effect on the mind.
11. Hiking Improves Balance
The uneven terrain will improve your balancing skills, automatically adjusting to ground-level changes.
12. Walking Keeps You Young and Lowers the Risk of Early Death
Research presented at the European Society of Cardiology showed that “those who engaged in daily moderate exercise such as a brisk walk have experienced anti-aging benefits that could add three to seven years to their lives.” Just seven active hours a week increases life expectancy!
Take a Walk!
Whether you decide on a Sunday stroll, an afternoon hike, or a weekend in the wild, get out and chart your course. If you are unable to walk, start small. Even a ramble to the mailbox on a beautiful day is life-enhancing. Or find a park bench to bird and people watch. Reap the bountiful benefits of fresh air and remember to use it or lose it for lasting recovery!