You are probably well aware that exercise is good for your body. As they say, “a body in motion stays in motion.” However, did you know that physical activity can improve your mental health? There are many benefits to getting your body and blood moving, and these benefits can help you manage stress and other mental health symptoms that arise in drug and alcohol treatment. While in treatment, you may not feel your best, and starting to exercise may seem like a lot, but the workouts don’t have to be painful or strenuous. Read more to discover how you can begin reaping the benefits of fitness in recovery today.
Exercise to Improve Your Outlook on Life
People often exercise to lose weight or improve their physique. However, physical activity’s benefit on mental and emotional well-being is another powerful and enduring motivator. Once you start your fitness journey, you will likely sleep better during the night, have more energy throughout the day, and experience a reduced level of stress. You might notice that you feel more relaxed and have a better overall outlook on your life. Your self-esteem and confidence may start to shine through as you master challenging exercises and see the results of your hard work.
Research backs up these benefits and demonstrates that exercise can improve mental health by alleviating low self-esteem and social withdrawal and reducing depression and anxiety. Mild to moderate depression treated by exercise has been found to be as effective as anti-depression medication. A study cited in “The exercise effect” published by the American Psychological Association explained that sixty individuals showed significant improvements in anxiety sensitivity after participating in a two-week exercise program. The researchers elaborated that exercise can act as exposure treatment, in which individuals learn to associate anxiety symptoms with safety as opposed to danger.
Combat Stress Hormones With Exercise
Researchers are not entirely sure what the exact cause-effect relationship is between physical activity and mental health. However, they do know that hormones play a significant role. Exercise helps lower stress hormones involved in the body’s fight-or-flight response, such as adrenaline and cortisol. Chronic activation of this survival mechanism is associated with high blood pressure, the formation of artery-clogging deposits, obesity, and brain changes that may contribute to depression, anxiety, and addiction.
Moving your body also combats stress by stimulating the production of feel-good hormones like endorphins. Endorphins are the body’s natural painkillers and are related to an enhanced sense of well-being. They work by binding to opioid receptors in parts of the nervous system, like the spinal cord, and dopamine is produced. Opioid drugs are chemically similar to endorphins and work in a similar manner. Have you ever experienced a “runner’s high?” That’s endorphins at work, producing feelings of relaxation and optimism.
Get Active Today With These Fitness Tips
Maintaining an active routine is vital to keep your body and mind healthy. It adds structure to your day and encourages you to be disciplined. Exercise is an amazing opportunity to improve yourself, and it only takes up a small slice of your time. You will even have the added benefit of improving your chances of avoiding relapse, which is essential to being successful in recovery.
The first step in starting your fitness journey is to determine what works for you. What kind of movement do you enjoy? Maybe you prefer cardio over strength training. Maybe you love sports or working out with other people. Maybe all you want to do is take a nice walk and call it a day. Explore some different options and see how it goes, such as the following:
- Martial arts
- Weight lifting
- Contact Sports
Whatever activity you choose, remember to be patient with yourself, especially if working out is new to you. Set your timer for however long you think you can manage without pushing yourself too far. This is your workout, so you set the bar. Remember, exercise may not be pleasant at first, but the benefits will start to outweigh the costs of slight discomfort through practice.
Ironically, some people are so overcome with stress and exhaustion that they have no energy left to move. A review of the literature supports the notion that some people are impaired from being physically active due to the experience of stress. If you’re in this situation, don’t stress yourself out even more. Instead of getting physical, you could benefit from meditation and breathing exercises to relax and heal your mind. To move the body, the mind needs to be charged. Gentle forms of movement like yin yoga or walking may be the next best option once you have reduced stress levels and regained some energy.
Adding exercise to your daily to-do list has many mental health benefits that can keep you on the right track for recovery. You will sleep better, manage anxiety and depression more effectively, and improve your overall sense of well-being. Hawaii Island Recovery understands that exercise plays a vital role in the mind-body connection of addiction. We are the Big Island’s premier substance abuse rehabilitation facility for adults. We offer a comprehensive treatment program for a range of addictions. Our island-style residences are situated on the coastline to give you the peace and tranquility you need to heal. With a high staff-to-patient ratio, access to high-quality and consistent care is our top priority. Because you are unique and have needs that are different from the next patient, we are happy to work with you to develop a customized treatment plan that succinctly reflects your goals.