Is cycling good for alcohol rehab?

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Is cycling good for alcohol rehab? 

Cycling is good for alcohol rehab as it helps you exercise your body, rewire your mind, and feel good. This activity is good for anyone. For those fighting substance abuse, cycling has proven to be one of the most effective ways to achieve long-term recovery. 

Health benefits of cycling 

Cycling regularly comes with several health benefits, which include: 

a). Improved stamina 

Improved stamina means that you're able to hold energy for a long time. Cycling strengthens heart muscles, lowers resting pulse and fat levels. This effect, in turn, boosts your energy and helps you remain energetic for a long time. 

One of the effects of quitting any drug and alcohol is that you experience low energy levels. You feel fatigued most of the time and may have trouble sleeping.

But when you exercise regularly, you feel more energetic. You will be able to do more without feeling tired. 

b). Improved fitness 

Bike riding helps you exercise your whole body. It helps you replace fat in the legs and thighs with muscle mass. Replacing the fat in your body with muscle helps you burn more calories.

This is because muscle tissue utilizes more calories compared to fat tissue. 

Some studies show obesity and substance use disorders are connected. Most people who engage in exercise and other outdoor activities are most likely not end up with addiction. [1]

You can consider riding your bike for half an hour or less to tone your muscles without feeling winded. 

c). Healthy heart.  

Aside from improving your physical health, cycling also leads to a healthy heart. Some studies show that cycling improves cardiac function and lowers the risk of developing coronary heart disease [2,3].

Regular cycling improves the heart, lungs, and circulation, which boosts your heart's health. 

d). Relieve stress  

Most people take booze and drugs as a coping mechanism. When you opt for addiction treatment, you need to develop healthy alternatives for dealing with stress.

Fitness and cycling are the best alternatives. When you cycle or take up physical activities, the brain releases endorphins which make you feel high naturally and thus relieve the stress. 

Other physical health advantages of riding a bike include: 

  • Increased bone mass: Good for those who are aging. 
  • Improved coordination: This is because cycling involves the whole body. 
  • Lowers the risk of developing a medical condition such as diabetes, arthritis, some cancers. 
  • Improved posture and coordination. 

Benefits of cycling for people in recovery 

Bike riding is advantageous for people in recovery as it offers a healthy alternative for their free time. One benefit is that you get to rewire your brain by learning a new activity.

When you ride a bike, you must focus on the road, which is great as you build on concentration and awareness. 

Most recovered addicts swear by the advantages of this activity. Not only does bike riding help you make productive use of your time, but it also lets you live in the present moment.

You get to spend time outside in the fresh air. The energy and force you use to pedal combined with the outdoor experience help you overcome issues such as depression, anxiety, and negative thinking. 

It is common for people struggling with addiction to experience depression. However, the enjoyment you get from riding your bike helps you overcome the mental health issues associated with addictions. [4]

Moreover, the neurological rewards that you get when you cycle help boost your self-esteem. 

Bike riding will help you not only physically and mentally but also socially. You get to make new friends who will engage in healthful activities with you.

You may also attend bicycle tours to meet other people and forge connections that make recovery fun and thrilling experience. 

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The dangers of exercise addiction in recovery 

Similar to most things in life, when you exercise excessively, you harm yourself. People who struggle with addiction risk thinking that if a little of something is good, then more of it is better.

Yet, this perception is dangerous as it leads to a condition known as overtraining syndrome. Instead of benefiting the individual, habits such as bike riding and exercise become harmful to your health. 

The symptoms of overtraining include: 

  • Depression 
  • Chronic fatigue 
  • Irritability 
  • Anorexia 
  • Mental breakdown 
  • Susceptibility to infections 
  • Heart problems 
  • Recurrent injuries 

Overtraining increases the risk of relapse. One reason for this is because the person becomes so obsessed with the activity that they neglect other important areas of life.

Getting addicted to a workout or any outdoor activity is one way a person avoids dealing with their problems. In the end, the person becomes miserable and often feels guilty when unable to work out. 

A solid workout is important for long-term recovery. However, there is a difference between engaging in physical exercise to improve your wellbeing or the exercise taking the place of addiction.

The brain can build a tolerance to exercise or any physical activity.  

However, once it becomes an obsession, you are likely to neglect your friends and family.

When a person turns a good activity like bike riding into another addiction, they risk putting their loved ones in the same cycle of suffering that they did before when they were drinking or taking drugs. 

How exercise can help you beat addiction 

Exercising leads to positive effects on the mind and body. When you incorporate activities, such as walking, hiking, yoga, strength training, among others, you help the brain increase dopamine. This effect helps you overcome an alcohol or drug craving. 

Activities such as meditation or yoga help alleviate stress and anxiety, which lowers the risk of relapse.

Incorporating cardio exercises such as running and weightlifting into your daily life also helps you beat addiction. Such exercises get you physically and mentally involved.  

By the end of the day, you'll be too tired to think about drugs or alcohol. Cardio exercises also lower the risk of insomnia. 

Many rehab centres incorporate fitness exercises into their addiction treatment programme. They also encourage people in recovery to develop new skills such as pedalling to beat addiction.

If you're considering incorporating these activities into your life, you need to start by learning as much as you can if you're a beginner. 

Most beginners overdo the activity at the beginning, which can lead to injury. Also, overworking yourself at the start is likely to lower your motivation after a while.

The best strategy is to begin slowly and build up the mileage over time. 

Recovery also calls you to strike a balance between physical fitness and nutritious food.

Don't lose yourself in the activity and forget to enjoy the wonderful experience of being outside. Physical activity is not a chore but should be things that you find enjoyable. 

It is common for people in recovery to avoid exercise and bike riding. Any healthy, engaging activity is the last thing in their mind. Yet recovering persons are not the only ones with this issue.

Studies show that many people struggle with motivation; for example, only 63.3% of people in the UK engage in physical activity [5]. 

Yet, exercise is important for addiction treatment as it helps fill a void by providing structure and routine. Exercises also serve as a constructive coping mechanism that lowers the risk of relapse. 

Of all the things you learn during rehab, physical activity is one of the things that are personalized and prioritized. This is because rehab centres understand the importance of fitness during treatment.

When you engage in fitness plus outdoor activities such as pedalling, you get to reframe your perception of the world. You realize that there are healthier ways to get rid of the feeling of anxiety.  

Physical activities and outdoor activities can also help you build your social life. You can spend several hours a week interacting with individuals who enjoy these activities.

You can even go for bike tours or use biking as a way to get to sobriety meetings. 

There's a sense of accomplishment and thrill that you experience when you engage in physical activities. When you attend rehab, your treatment provider places you in an exercise plan that you can utilise even after leaving the treatment centre. 

Taking time to rest and engage with your family is also important. Be careful not to let the activity turn into another addiction. 

Giving up addiction leaves you with plenty of leisure time. Since you no longer take booze or drugs, you may find yourself battling loneliness as you no longer hang out with the friend you used to.

But activities such as biking, hiking, and exercising help, you rebuild a better life. If you are interested in biking, you can take advantage of the vast resources online for beginners. 

There are biking programmes for beginners that you can follow to learn this new skill while lowering your risk for injuries. 

See the full Abbeycare alcohol rehab overview here.

Abbeycare Pricing Bot

Last Updated: January 18, 2023

About the author

Peter Szczepanski

Peter has been on the GPhC register for 29 years. He holds a Clinical Diploma in Advanced Clinical Practice and he is a Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Misuse for Abbeycare Gloucester and works as the Clinical Lead in Alcohol and Substance Use in Worcestershire. Peter also co-authored the new 6th edition of Drugs In Use by Linda Dodds, writing Chapter 15 on Alcohol Related Liver Disease. Find Peter on Respiratory Academy, Aston University graduates, University of Birmingham, Q, Pharmaceutical Journal, the Dudley Pharmaceutical Committee, Dudley Council, Twitter, and LinkedIn.