Patients at Begin Again Institute often benefit from adding exercise to their program of recovery. Walking, biking, yoga classes, dance classes, aerobic exercise, Pilates, martial arts, swimming and weight training are just a few of the activities we’ve seen our patients get involved in. Addicts and non-addicts alike experience the benefits of an exercise program including improved strength, reduced pain, weight loss, improved cardiovascular health and increased energy. For sex addicts, however, there are even more reasons to add exercise to their program of recovery. Sex addiction wreaks havoc on a person’s emotional and physical health. From painful conditions like sexually transmitted disease and sore or bruised genitals to emotional ailments like anxiety and depression, sex addiction takes a toll on the entire body. Exercise, along with an active program of recovery, is a great way to take care of both the mind and body. One of the reasons exercise works wonders for addicts is endorphins. Endorphins released during and after physical exertion trigger the pleasure center of the brain. Endorphins naturally combat the stress, depression, and anxiety that many addicts feel during recovery. Also, addiction destroys our self-esteem and a regular program of exercise can help rebuild the way we feel about ourselves. An addicts self-esteem can be transformed by exercise, by accomplishing goals, getting physically stronger and a new fit appearance. Exercise also provides the structure that most addicts do not have. Before getting sober, addicts lived lives controlled by ego and selfishness. There was zero accountability and schedules were often thrown out the window in order to pursue a sexual desire. Now sober and attending therapy sessions or meetings, addicts crave discipline and regularity and a commitment to an exercise regime or classes helps assist in this goal. Finally, exercise is a positive way to stay busy. Now sexually sober, we often hear patients bemoan how bored and restless they are. The hours spent online, looking at pornography or chasing sexual encounters are suddenly free and addicts in recovery are left thinking, “So now what do I do?” Exercise is a healthy way to fill that void. Not only does working out eat sometime during the day, it also wears you out and makes sleeping and relaxing even easier. A program of exercise needn’t be strenuous, expensive or time-consuming. Planning a walking date with friends or swimming for a half an hour every week can make a world of difference. Little and consistent changes in physical activity can start at 20 to 30 minutes a day or a few times a week. That being said, exercise should not take the place of doing the work of recovery or become a new obsession/addiction that a patient throws themselves into instead of getting help. Also, sex addicts with a history of hooking up at a gym or using workouts to find sex partners should be open and honest with their certified sex addiction therapist before starting their workouts. Naturally, sex addicts in recovery who have physical conditions should, of course, check with their primary physicians before starting any exercise program. The goal of recovery is feeling better and embracing a new life so exercise should enrich that goal.
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