It’s safe to say that everyone knows that exercise is a cornerstone of your health – studies show time and time again, that a focus on physical fitness can improve all aspects of your life, including your mental health and self-esteem. However, many people may not know just how transformative exercise can be for those in recovery. The benefits inherent to a healthy, active lifestyle can keep you sober and happy for years to come.
How Fitness Changes Your Brain
There’s no shortage of research documenting just how helpful fitness can be for your body, but did you know that it also changes your brain? Studies show that exercise enhances mood states, meaning that going for a light jog or spending some time at the yoga studio releases endorphins that really can cheer you up. These same endorphins can help with feelings of anxiety and depression, improving overall mental health.
Addiction can drastically impact your confidence, which can take serious dedication to rebuild. Physical fitness boosts your self-esteem in a variety of ways – you won’t just look better; you’ll feel better too. Setting goals and meeting them can have a positive impact on your feelings of control and self-sufficiency. Exercise has even been shown to fundamentally change our brain chemistry, resulting in improved mental well-being: feeling good about yourself and the world around you. A new study focusing on identical twins even indicates that exercise could result in more gray matter in different regions of the brain. This provides physical evidence of the advantages of a healthy lifestyle.
Benefits of Exercise in Recovery
Physical fitness also has benefits specific to those in addiction recovery. For those leaving treatment, one of the greatest dangers (and most common relapse triggers) is boredom. Once you leave the tightly-scheduled environment of a treatment center, returning to structureless day-to-day life can be a shock to the system. If there’s nothing else to focus on, one’s mind may begin to wander, and it can be tempting to seek out drugs and alcohol. Because of this, it’s especially important for people in recovery to fill their days with healthy routine. What better option than getting into the habit of exercising? Instead of loafing around the house or sitting in front of the TV, choose to go for a run or attend a group fitness class. By paying attention to your needs and feelings, you can make a constructive choice, create a healthy lifestyle, and protect your hard-won recovery.
As mentioned in the sections above, exercise can have a positive effect on your mental state. By prioritizing your health, you lessen the effects of depression and anxiety, resulting in better moods and overall mental well-being. However, the benefits of fitness don’t stop there. Studies show that physical activity also lessens cravings: the urges to drink or use drugs. This happens by reducing the levels of a protein in the brain that contributes to these cravings while simultaneously releasing natural endorphins, which are a much preferred alternative to the sensations associated with drinking or using drugs.
Fitness Tips for Recovery
The Department of Health and Human Services offers a list of guidelines for physical activity. They include moving more (and sitting less) throughout the day, especially if you work at a desk. It’s also noted that any amount of physical activity is better than none, but it’s recommended that you strive for at least 150 minutes of activity each week (that’s just 21 minutes per day). It’s recommended that you spread this out throughout the week, rather than focusing all of it on one day.
Remember that physical fitness doesn’t mean that you have to spend long hours at the gym – pick an activity that speaks to you and makes sense in your daily routine. This can include everything from walking the dog around the block to doing yoga with an emphasis on mindfulness meditation. Go for a jog with friends to make exercise a fun social activity; this has the added advantage of holding you accountable. Whatever activity you choose, stick with it and start reaping the benefits of physical fitness.
Physical Fitness at Makana Path
At Makana Path, we offer a variety of specialized addiction treatment services. Our recreational activities include an emphasis on bodily awareness and physical fitness that continues to serve our clients for the rest of their lives. If you or a loved one could benefit from a comprehensive approach to recovery, call 866-905-4550 or complete our confidential contact form today.