Self-Care During Recovery: Find the Right Kind of Exercise for You

photo of three middle aged women laughing while carrying yoga mats

Practicing self-care during recovery can be very simple. In fact, one tried-and-true self-care strategy that promotes recovery is something we all know about: exercise.

We know you’ve heard this before:

A regular exercise routine keeps you healthy, strong, emotionally and psychologically balanced, and can help you live a long, happy life.

Experts in child development recommend at least an hour of outdoor activity a day for children as they’re growing up. The same experts recommend roughly the same amount for adults. Your age or life circumstance don’t change the fact that for optimal health, you need some form of exercise or activity every day.

To learn exactly how much exercise health scientists advise to stay healthy please navigate to the blog section of our website and read this article:

Exercise and Addiction Recovery: How Much Exercise Do You Need?

The type of activity matters, too. We need a healthy combination of low-intensity, moderate-intensity, and high-intensity exercise. Those intensities are related to you, of course. High intensity for a 50-year-old might be moderate for a 30-year-old, or low for an energetic 18-year-old. You determine your intensity levels, which depend on your personal relationship with exercise, the last time you had and exercise routine, and your personal health history.

Your self-care routine during recovery should be something specific to you, but also meet the requirements – or get close – suggested by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and outlined in the article we link to above.

The benefits of a consistent exercise/activity routine include:

  • Improves heart health
  • Improves the strength, endurance, and efficiency of your muscles
  • Releases chemicals in the brain that improve mood
  • Increases bone strength
  • Decreases stress
  • Improves sleep
  • Increases energy
  • Helps prevent weight gain/promotes weight loss
  • Helps improve/prevent diabetes and hypertension
  • Keeps joints mobile and healthy
  • Enhances immunity/immune response

What Works for You? Self-Care During Recovery

Finding the kind of exercise that’s best for you depends on one thing: you.

We encourage you to be creative. Design your routine in a way that makes sense to you. When you design your routine, remember to incorporate about one hour a day of a combination of low, moderate, and high intensity activities – but don’t let those rules prevent you from getting started. You don’t need a personal trainer to understand these activity levels – and you don’t have to exercise in any way you don’t like.

For example, if you love working in the yard, that can be your exercise. If you enjoy walks in the morning or after dinner, that can be your exercise. And if you love working on projects around/in the house, then that can be your exercise.

It’s not nearly as hard as you think, and it’s definitely not rocket science. To make sure we’re on the same page, we’ll review what we mean by low, moderate, and high intensity activity.

Low Intensity

This means you’re active and in motion, but you’re not working too hard. Your heart rate increases slightly, and talking is easy.

Moderate Intensity

This means performing an activity at a level of effort that you can keep up for about ten to twenty minutes. Your heart rate increases, and you can talk, but it’s not easy.

High Intensity

This means performing an activity at your maximum level of effort, but not for long. This is known as high intensity interval training, or HIIT: short periods of effort at maximum intensity, separated by short recovery periods.

Here are some examples of low, moderate, and high-intensity activities you can do at home:


  • Low: thirty minutes of light weeding
  • Moderate: half an hour of mowing
  • High: digging a new flower bed/planting shrubs/carrying heavy items from the garden store


  • Low: a 20-minute walk after dinner
  • Moderate: a quick, energetic walk first thing in the morning
  • High: on any walk, go fast up hills, and easy on flat ground – it’s an easy way to do interval training

Home Projects

  • Low: cleaning/dusting
  • Moderate: rearranging/moving (not heavy) furniture
  • High: carrying boxes up and down stairs – another novel approach to interval training

Own It: Make it Yours

There’s no need to hire a personal trainer or buy a Peloton bike. There’s also no need to do what people consider exercise, either.

What do you need?

  1. Something you enjoy
  2. Something that fits your lifestyle
  3. Something you feel better after doing

When you find an activity or routine that checks those three boxes, you’re on your way to making a healthy exercise routine part of your life. Maybe daily, maybe not: what matters is exercising more days than not exercising. A regular exercise/activity routine can help you manage stress and keep your body healthy as you age. And most importantly, it’s exactly the type of self-care that promotes long-term, sustainable recovery.

The materials provided on the Pinnacle Blog are for information and educational purposes only. No behavioral health or any other professional services are provided through the Blog and the information obtained through the Blog is not a substitute for consultation with a qualified health professional. If you are in need of medical or behavioral health treatment, please contact a qualified health professional directly, and if you are in need of emergency help, please go to your nearest emergency room or dial 911.