More and more research is coming to light about the health benefits of exercise. And it’s not just your physical health that benefits from exercise, but your mental and emotional health do as well. Exercise is gaining more and more importance in the fields of mental health and recovery from addiction. If you’re already used to exercising on a regular basis, perhaps you already know its benefits. Yet, for someone who doesn’t exercise on a regular basis, doing so may completely transform their recovery.
Here are some clear benefits of exercise:
- maintain physical health
- release endorphins
- boost your mood and positive feelings
- increase brain health
- release tension
- take the mind off obsessive thoughts
- provide you with higher doses of dopamine and serotonin
- prevent depression or low moods
As mentioned above, there are many research studies being done on the benefits of exercise. For instance, one research studied the effects of heady alcohol use on the brain and how exercise can prevent those damaging effects. The results indicated the regular exercise can actually prevent the brain damage that heavy alcohol use can cause. This was a preliminary study with more research to come. However, the lead researcher explained that “aerobic exercise could be a beneficial recommendation for individuals with a history of alcohol use.”
Exercise can be valuable for one’s emotional health
Along with preventing the ill effects on the brain, exercise can also help the brain make new neural connections, which can facilitate enduring change. For instance, in recovery you’re learning new coping tools. You’re learning to use these coping tools when you feel stressed instead of turning to substance use. Each time the brain learns a new skill (such as the use of a coping tool) it makes a new neural connection. Exercise helps the brain make those connections and it can even help the brain reinforce those connection. In other words, exercise can strengthen your ability to respond to life and its stressors in a healthy way.
Some turn to exercise to let go of anger, frustration, and stress. And this can be particularly true for those who are in recovery from addiction. Another research study indicates that exercise can actually prevent depression, when done on a regular basis. Even if you’re not depressed, this research indicates how valuable exercise can be for one’s emotional and psychological health.
If you want to experience the benefits listed above, you don’t have to run a marathon a day; simply take a brisk walk three times per week. Of course, you can do much more than that too. You might want to run, workout at the gym, go hiking, dance, practice yoga, or go to aerobics classes. Yet, keep in mind that one study found that too much exercise can actually become harmful. You may need to find an amount that works best for you. Another study found that those who exercised approximately 14 hours per week had the highest level of well being. Certainly for most people in recovery, exercise is a way to stay not only physically fit, but emotionally and even psychologically fit.