Physical and mental health are often discussed as two separate issues. However, physical and mental health are more connected than one may think. This connection becomes especially prevalent when recovering from substance use disorders (SUDs) and mental health disorders. Regular exercise can significantly improve the path to recovery in a variety of ways. Looking at the health benefits of exercise can help us understand why exercising is a vital tool in recovery.
Physical Benefits of Exercise
One of the main ways in which someone in recovery can benefit from physical exercise is weight control. Physical exercise strengthens your bones and muscles. This is crucial for maintaining a healthy weight and maintaining strength during recovery. Often, people who are recovering from SUDs can have issues with achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. Physical exercise and a healthy diet are perhaps the most effective ways of combatting this issue.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) outlines ways in which just 150 minutes of regular exercise per week can improve your physical health. The benefits of regular exercise include reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and various cancers, including lung cancer. Additionally, regular exercise can help rebuild and establish nerve connections in your brain, which can help the brain recover from the effects of substance abuse.
Mental Benefits of Exercise
Not only does regular exercise have a plethora of physical benefits, but exercise can also significantly improve your mental health. Exercising causes your body to release endorphins, which are chemicals that can give people a sense of optimism and invigoration.
Endorphins are a non-addictive reward for the brain. This means regular exercise is a great way to get a positive boost without having to worry about long-term adverse effects. Studies have shown that regular exercise can help individuals improve their memory and sharpen their thinking and judgment, which can be crucial to recovery.
The CDC has also stated that regular exercise can reduce the risks of anxiety and depression. Often anxiety and depression are found to go hand-in-hand with addiction and recovery. A regular release of endorphins can allow people in recovery to maintain an optimistic outlook on life while reducing the risks of developing serious mental health issues. Maintaining mental health also protects people from relapse.
How Can You Start Exercising?
The truth is, there is no “correct” way to exercise. Everyone will begin at different experience levels with different capabilities. However, there are a variety of different options for you to choose to get in your recommended 150 minutes of exercise per week. There’s no better time to start than now. Regardless of how you exercise, ensure you’re listening to your body, staying hydrated, and taking breaks when needed.
Here are some popular exercises for you to try so you can stay in tune with your mind and body:
Whether on a sidewalk, on a nature trail, or on a treadmill, running is a great exercise that allows you to focus your mind and concentrate on your goals. It can also help you burn some steam and practice self-discipline.
Hiking can help you clear your mind and connect with nature. If you’re in an area with hiking trails, such as California, consider grabbing a friend and using the opportunity to ground yourself in nature to exercise your mind, spirit, and body.
Studies have shown swimming can reduce symptoms of anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and depression, as well as withdrawal symptoms. Additionally, the cool water may help relieve some physical ailments that can accompany recovery.
Strength training can be a valuable tool in integrating self-discipline and perseverance into your life. Weight training can often help improve body image and cultivate a clearer state of mind. Always practice caution when lifting weights, as lifting too much can cause serious injury.
Practicing yoga has been linked to increased levels of the neurotransmitter GABA, which is often low in people struggling with SUDs. GABA plays a crucial role in your central nervous system, and maintaining healthy levels of it helps to manage anxiety, stress, and fear.
Exercise at West Coast Recovery Centers
At West Coast Recovery Centers (WCRC), we believe in both traditional and holistic treatment modalities to achieve the goals set by each client. Often, an essential part of these holistic methods is regular physical exercise.
Clients at WCRC participate in weekly yoga groups to strengthen a sense of community, exercise the body, and help manage any negative emotions that may manifest. Our programs aim to instill a sense of accountability and accomplishment in your day-to-day life.
Recovering from substance use disorder (SUD) is one of the most important and challenging steps you’ll ever take, and it’s important that you treat it as an opportunity to heal both your mind and body. At West Coast Recovery Centers, our professionals understand the challenges you’ll face and want to help you cultivate the best possible process for your journey to recovery. We can help you develop a plan to ensure you get the exercise you need. Our programs operate to teach you about daily structure, self-discipline, and accountability. You will also be among peers that will help lend motivation and inspiration long after treatment. With our support and your determination, long-term recovery is possible. If you or a loved one is struggling to manage their sobriety, then the time to get help is now. Don’t wait any longer; reach out to us today by calling us at (760) 492-6509.