Exercise is not only important to our physical health, but can benefit recovery greatly by helping to regulate and improve your mood, reduce cravings, and reduce stress. Many of those in recovery say that physical fitness is something that helps to keep them on track and healthy not only physically but mentally. In this article, we’ll take a look at how an exercise regimen can complement and enhance your recovery and the benefits that you’ll reap.
Exercise helps to heal your mind.
One of the many effects of substance abuse is the damage that it causes to the brain. Exercise helps to combat that damage by increasing the number of nerve pathways in your brain, healing it faster than it could without exercise. It also releases endorphins which are the “feel-good” chemicals that the brain releases in response to certain activities and create a natural high. Using drugs and alcohol disrupts the natural balance of these chemicals in the brain, but exercise helps to correct this imbalance and normalize endorphin levels. It also helps with depression and anxiety, which is very common among those who struggle with substance abuse.
Exercise reduces cravings.
A study done by Vanderbilt University showed that exercise helped regular marijuana users reduces their overall use and cravings for the drug. As part of the study, users exercised for just 30 minutes, five days a week. When the study concluded, participants noted that overall use of marijuana declined, as well as the cravings to use. This is due in part to exercise triggering the release of endorphins, and also in part to keeping the participants busy.
It helps to maintain a healthy weight.
Many of those struggling with addiction either gain weight or lose too much. The right exercise routine can help to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Whether the goal is to lose weight or to put some back on, exercise helps to accomplish both goals in a healthy way. Regular physical exercise burns calories and combined with a healthy diet can reduce body fat.
Exercise reduces stress.
Stress is a part of our everyday life and exercise is a great way to help relieve mental exhaustion. Physical activity reduces the stress hormone cortisol and helps to promote feelings of relaxation. Done regularly it also helps your body respond better to stressors long-term. For many addicts, stress can be a trigger, and exercising helps to deal with that trigger without resorting to drugs or alcohol.
Exercise improves memory.
Regular aerobic activity actually boosts the size of the hippocampus which is the area of the brain that is responsible for memory and learning. In a study done by Dr. Scott McGinnis, a neurologist and instructor at Harvard University, it was found that regular exercise of moderate intensity for more than six months actually increases the volume of selected brain regions.
Exercise improves sleep.
As little as ten minutes of physical activity per day can improve the quality of sleep, as well as reduce the risk for sleep disorders. Also, those who get regular, quality rest, are better able to deal with everyday stressors. This can mean being able to better deal with certain triggers during recovery.
Exercise can help create structure/relieve boredom.
Developing a routine is an important part of recovery. Try and schedule your exercise time during the same time that you would normally use. Replacing drug or alcohol abuse with a healthy routine can dramatically reduce chances of relapse.
Types Of Exercise For Recovery
Exercise doesn’t need to be strenuous in order for one to reap the many benefits. Here are a few types of exercise that can fit into any routine.
Yoga helps to improve strength, muscle tone, flexibility, increase blood flow, and much more. Aside from the physical benefits, yoga also helps with mental wellness by reducing stress, helping with focus and mental clarity. It is also a great way to incorporate meditation into your daily routine.
“In every walk with nature, one receives more than he seeks.” –John Muir.
Simply being outside has shown to reduce stress and greatly benefit mental health. Even a short walk can help to improve concentration, increase alertness, reduce anxiety, improve sleep, and improve mood. As little as 15 minutes per day of natural sunlight increases levels of vitamin D, which helps maintain healthy bones and teeth, regulates mood, and helps with depression. Hiking burns up to 500 calories per hour and has the same mental benefits of walking.
Weight lifting or exercises using your own body weight are often overlooked, but highly beneficial. Lean muscle helps to burn body fat, and is a healthy way to add weight if you need to gain a few pounds.
Social activities such as classes or team sports
For some, the thought of going to a gym and exercising is less than appealing. If you can find something that you enjoy, such as a Zumba class, or playing basketball with friends, you are much more likely to do it regularly and stick with it long term. Many gyms offer a number of different classes ranging from dance style workouts, to boot camps with a more intense tone. The key is to find something you’ll look forward too. The internet is a great place to search for activities locally. Try kick boxing, CrossFit, or maybe Zumba, all of which are available in this area.
Addiction recovery is a commitment that requires a lot of work and dedication. It is important to remember to utilize every tool possible to aid in that process. Replacing unhealthy habits with healthy ones, such as exercise and fitness, will surely assist in your sobriety and mental and physical well-being.
Contact Clearbrook Today
Are you or someone you love struggling with alcoholism or drug addiction? For more than 40 years, Clearbrook Treatment Centers has been providing quality treatment to the chemically dependent person, while educating and offering support to the affected family members. Located in the beautiful mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania, you will have the opportunity to recover in a serene and peaceful environment. Please do not suffer any longer. Contact our Admissions Specialists today and get on the road to recovery.