Getting in Shape for the First Time

Getting in Shape for the First Time

There are more and more studies in recent years showing that exercise is crucial for mental health and is also a powerful tool for overcoming addiction. Several studies in both animals and humans indicate that regular exercise can reduce the risk of relapsing to several substances, including cocaine, opioids, cannabis, and amphetamines. [https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/can-exercise-help-conquer-addiction-2018122615641]

Regular exercise should definitely be part of your recovery plan. However, many people find starting exercise extremely difficult. You may be in pretty bad shape, you may not think of yourself as an athletic person, or you may feel like you just don’t have the energy for regular exercise. If you’re trying to get in shape for the first time as part of your recovery from addiction or a mental health issue, here are some tips to make it easier.  

Start small.

The media often conveys distorted ideas of what a workout should look like. If your image of fitness is a Rocky training montage or a crossfitter on Instagram, you’ll probably end up trying to do too much too soon. At the beginning, the most important thing is to go from doing nothing to doing something. That something can be a five minute walk every day. Start with a level of exercise you don’t mind doing five or six days a week. Once you’ve established an exercise habit, you can increase the intensity.

Find something you like.

There’s a saying in the exercise world that the best exercise is the exercise you’ll actually do. For example, if you find rock climbing more engaging than running, that’s fine. Running has more research behind it, but if every moment of running feels like a chore, you probably won’t stick with it and at best you will do the bare minimum. The important thing is to say active and engaged.

Consistency beats intensity.

A lot of people, in a fit of inspiration, often on January first, sign up for the gym and hit it hard right away. Then, after a couple of weeks, they feel sore, exhausted, and possibly injured and give up entirely. By February, the regulars can use the squat rack again. The people who stick with it are the ones who create an exercise habit and build slowly. It takes a while for your body to adapt to new demands. It’s not a race. Find a solid beginner program and stick with it for a while. If you can, get a coach or trainer to help keep you on track and avoid rookie mistakes. 

Connect with your motivation.

Finally, connect with your true motivation to keep yourself engaged. Not many people enjoy exercise for its own sake, although there is certainly great satisfaction in learning new skills and doing things you didn’t think you could do. However, most people think of exercise as paying their dues. What you’re paying your dues for is up to you. It could be that exercise helps you manage stress and stay focused. Or it could be that you just want to look better. It doesn’t matter if you’re motivated by pure vanity because you’ll still get the other benefits too. What matters it that you’re honest about what motivates you and use that to get you through your workouts. 


Tree House Recovery of Orange County, California is a premiere men’s addiction treatment facility. Our holistic approach emphasizes fitness as a way of helping you take control of your body, mind, and life. Our experienced trainers can show you the way to a stronger, healthier life.  To learn more about our program or about addiction recovery in general, call us today at (855) 202-2138

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