July 1

Brain Boost: How Exercise Benefits People in Recovery Both Mentally and Physically


Drug rehabilitation programs often seek to fashion individualized treatment plans aimed at addressing the specific problems and triggers that bring on self-destructive behaviors. Everyone’s different in terms of what approaches are most helpful, but research has shown that physical exercise offers mental as well as physical benefits that they can’t get in any other way. Many treatment programs emphasize physical therapy outdoors in the fresh air and surrounded by the beauty and healing power of nature. Being physically active outside makes you feel better in every way, enhances your overall sense of well-being, and helps you establish an all-around healthy routine for the long term.


Mental benefits

How you feel directly affects how you think and your resolve to overcome personal challenges. Your muscles get stronger and more flexible, and your body becomes more lithe and loses excess fat. You look better. Self-esteem and confidence, two very important psychological factors in your recovery, receive a boost as anxiety and depression are alleviated. An analysis published in 2014 showed that substance abusers who got regular physical exercise had lower rates of substance use disorders in comparison to those who got little or no exercise. Adolescents who exercised every day proved better able to avoid the impacts of drug and alcohol use when they reached adulthood. Perhaps most importantly, exercise significantly reduced the desire for marijuana in dependent adults and bolstered their ability to avoid substance use disorders. In other words, exercise was shown to have a clear impact on the brain and how it copes with the problems of substance abuse.

While vigorous aerobic exercises like jogging, push-ups and pull-ups are known to increase the production of “feel good” chemicals in the brain like dopamine, serotonin and melatonin, other less strenuous forms of exercise also appear to aid in the mental recovery process. Tai chi and yoga are meditative, flexibility-enhancing exercises that help people in recovery raise their self-awareness, get in touch with inner reservoirs of strength, and help one focus on the here and now. Some people dislike the slow pace of this form of exercise but miss the benefit of the mind-body connection they can make. It encourages your brain to think and find new ways to process stimuli as your body gains strength. Yoga training is a central feature of many recovery programs in the United States, and that number appears to be growing.

Physical benefits

Some of the more obvious physical benefits of exercise are well-suited to treating many forms of substance abuse. For example, people with a drinking problem often need to shed calories because there is a proven connection between alcoholism and obesity, with its many symptoms including diabetes, cardiovascular problems, and high blood pressure. Heavy use of cocaine and meth often leave people undernourished and with insufficient muscle mass, which exercise can do much to correct. Strength training, cardio exercises, hiking and walking, team sports and yoga are some of the most effective forms of exercise for individuals in recovery.

Health coaching

Health coaches have a body of knowledge that can help you look at exercise in new and different ways. They can help devise a combined program of exercise and diet, and offer helpful advice on how to lead a healthy lifestyle.

Brain boost

Exercise boosts the production of endorphins and other chemicals that affect how you feel. It’s the feeling that runners often get, called the “runner’s high.” It’s mentally encouraging and increases the likelihood that you’ll continue to experience that high through exercise.

Exercise is proven effective at helping people in recovery mentally, physically and emotionally. It can also lay the groundwork for an all-around healthier lifestyle. That can help you resist temptations that may produce relapse behavior.

Images Courtesy of Pixabay.com.

Author: Kim Thomas’ mission is aligned with that of http://ushealthcorps.org/, and that is to triumph over chronic disease. Her mission is to advocate for those suffering from chronic disease and enjoys writing about maintaining a healthy lifestyle.


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